Abortion is healthcare

Whether someone is having an abortion because they do not want to be pregnant, because it is medically necessary, because the pregnancy is not compatible with life or for whatever reason they have, abortion care must be available to them.

In January 1973, the U.S. Supreme Court affirmed our constitutional right to abortion, and 44 years later, the vast majority of Americans believe the landmark Roe v. Wade decision must be protected. Still, we face extreme anti-abortion measures in the Texas Legislature, and as a country we are preparing for a hostile anti-abortion administration. Attacks on our rights are imminent, which is why we must declare once and for all that abortion is an essential component of healthcare, and it should be treated as such.

Abortion is one of the safest medical procedures, but it is unfortunately becoming more and more difficult to access, especially in Texas. Laws prohibiting abortion and targeting the doctors who perform them have far-reaching implications, affecting more than just the besieged abortion clinic on the corner.

When Texas regulates abortion providers or makes laws that prohibit family planning funds from going to any doctor who would dare provide patients with information about abortion, patients are harmed. Families are harmed. Just ask the women who are denied miscarriage management by hospitals because treating them would be considered an abortion. Texas politicians force doctors and hospitals to lie to their patients. The procedures used in abortion care are the same used to manage miscarriages, perform biopsies or treat excessive bleeding, and when Texas medical schools do not teach abortion care, all of OB/GYN care suffers.

Contraception can fail. The best plans do not always work out. And when that happens, abortion is an essential part of health care. Abortion allows women to plan and space their pregnancies, which improves their physical, psychological and economic well-being. Evidence shows that people who are able to obtain an abortion are better able to maintain a positive future outlook and achieve their aspirational life plans. Conversely, evidence clearly demonstrates that if a pregnant person seeks an abortion and access to that care is delayed or denied, they are at greater risk of experiencing adverse health and economic outcomes.

Abortion care is needed for reasons too numerous to list here. But one of the most common is because of family — whether to start one or to add to one. Many mothers have abortions because it is the best decision for the children they already have.

For people with certain health conditions, an unintended pregnancy can be devastating, if not dangerous. And even with a planned pregnancy, unexpected tragedies can arise. Imagine the woman who gets a cancer diagnosis and must decide between continuing the pregnancy or life-saving chemotherapy. And what about the parents who discover in the second trimester that the fetus has severe anomalies and has no chance of living outside the womb? Abortion is essential health care for them.

Despite politics and moral beliefs, it is undisputed that abortion is a medical procedure and is a necessary component of reproductive health care. Licensed physicians in Texas perform abortions. Medical schools are required to teach the techniques used to perform abortions in order to maintain their accreditation.

Because abortion is health care, it should be driven by evidence-based standards developed and supported by medical professionals — not by political opinion. Instead, patients and providers are required to overcome numerous barriers. These barriers — waiting periods, so-called “counseling” requirements, bans on insurance coverage, limits on who can perform abortions, and TRAP laws — are not intended to protect health and safety, they are designed to coerce women into giving birth to unwanted children. They serve no purpose other than to make abortion more difficult and expensive.

Abortion is health care. It is life-saving. And when it is needed, it must be accessible. Texas’ anti-abortion policies are harming us and they must be halted and overturned.

Heather Busby

Executive director, NARAL Pro-Choice Texas