Commentary

In the absence of Roe v. Wade

January 20, 2023 6:25 am

"Politics crept into the judicial branch of our democracy last year and took away the right to privacy in deciding about a woman’s health, her family, and her future." (Photo illustration by Laura Rosina | Getty Images)

Jan. 22, 2023, was to mark the 50th anniversary of Roe v. Wade, the landmark U.S. Supreme Court ruling that protected the privacy of a woman and her physician in her decision about pregnancy. 

It respected a woman’s right to choose if and when she would have children. It supported the notion that everything we can do to give women control over their bodies and their fertility enhances their health and changes the world for the better. 

Politics crept into the judicial branch of our democracy last year and took away the right to privacy in deciding about a woman’s health, her family, and her future. The Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization decision overturned Roe on June 24, 2022. The result has been that 1 in 3 women of reproductive age may no longer access abortion in their home state. 

The inevitable result is that affluent women will continue to have access to safe and affordable contraception and, when that fails, abortions across state lines if necessary. But marginalized and less affluent women will not have access to needed preventive services, and they will again resort to unsafe abortions and suffer the consequences.

The World Health Organization (WHO) has estimated that 22 million unsafe abortions are performed annually in countries with limited or no access to safe, legal abortions. These unsafe abortions result in tens of thousands of deaths and millions of permanent disabilities. Some of us are old enough to have witnessed the consequence of illegal abortions performed by unskilled providers under non-sterile conditions. The rest of us have learned those lessons from history. 

Sadly, I fear we will not need history as our teacher with Roe overturned, because we will again see deaths and permanent injuries of women. 

None of us have wanted to return to a time when desperate women, often of limited means, seek unsafe pregnancy terminations. This decision is deeply personal and difficult, one that should remain the prerogative of each woman and her provider, not usurped by lawmakers. 

It is easy to focus on the darkness of this time, but the fight for reproductive rights burns stronger than ever. Planned Parenthood of New Hampshire suggests that we light a candle on Jan. 22 showing that our commitment to women’s freedom is still ablaze. 

I encourage you to contact your newly elected legislators to share why you care about reproductive rights. Abortion remains accessible in New Hampshire but without legal protection. House Bill 88, the Access to Abortion care Act, will come before the Legislature this year to legally protect a woman’s right to terminate her pregnancy (before 24 weeks). Similar laws have been passed in all of the other New England states. 

As a health professional who had the privilege to care for women over 40 years, I believe that reversing Roe was a grave mistake, contrary to the health of women in this country. Medicine is about caring for human beings, not about politics and ideology. We must embrace women and their health. 

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Oge Young
Oge Young

Dr. Oge Young is a retired obstetrician and gynecologist who practiced in Concord for 35 years. He is the past president of the New Hampshire Medical Society.

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