There are many complex reasons women terminate pregnancies. Saying it’s about “not wanting a baby” doesn’t begin to appreciate women’s health care.
An obstetrician-gynecologist based in Green Bay believes a wildly simplistic view of abortion has shaped the circumstances that leading to the conservative-led US Supreme Court’s apparent decision to gut protections for women’s reproductive health care provided by Roe v. Wade nearly 50 years ago.
Dr. Kristin Lyerly, the upper Midwest legislative district chair for the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, said too many people in positions of power have feelings similar to Justice Amy Coney Barrett, who implied in recent arguments that the existence of safe haven laws—that allow new mothers to surrender an infant without legal consequences—alleviate the “burdens of parenting” and make abortion protections less necessary.
“I don’t know what world she lives in, but that is just not how it works in the real world,” said Lyerly. “It has nothing to do with ‘just not wanting a baby.’ The reasons why women pursue abortions are all over the place,” and include complicated health histories, social histories, economic situations, and health issues that prevent a women from being able to carry a pregnancy to term.
“And the only way we can take care of these women, these families, these communities in a thoughtful, necessary way is to individualize their care. And that is exactly the opposite of what will happen when this decision comes down,” she said.
If Roe were overturned, Wisconsin women would immediately revert to being treated under an 1849 law that outlaws all abortions. Republicans have also proposed further restrictions on reproductive health options.
Lyerly takes issue with language from Justice Samuel Alito—leaked Monday night in a copy of a draft opinion that would overturn Roe—claiming abortion rights do not have “any claim to be deeply rooted in history.” In part, she notes, that’s because women did not have a say in voting or law about their bodies throughout much of American history.
“[This is about] our ability to make decisions about our bodies, to determine the rest of our lives, that put us at an economic and physical disadvantage,” she said. “Not being able to make these complicated decisions for ourselves sets us on an entirely different track.”
A former candidate for state Assembly in 2020, Lyerly said it’s important for women and those who support them to not take this threat to healthcare rights lightly and to take actions that protect their ability to get full, factual information from their physicians and make important decisions about their health and their futures.