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SCOTUS Has Created a Paradox for All Healthcare Workers

Latoya L. Stewart, MSN, RN

Disclosures

July 11, 2022

A few years ago, after such rave reviews, I decided to discover what The Handmaid's Tale was about. I marveled at the idea that a world like that could ever possibly exist. In my mind, how could women be subjected to such horrors in which their value was solely that of reproduction. A world where borders separated a woman's right to her own body. I could fathom such a world. The storyline made such an impression on me that it began to seep into my dreams, and I never made it past season one.

Fast forward to June 24, and I am in a state of disbelief. Social media has become the perfect storm of memes, opinion pieces, outrage, joy, and a bevy of other emotions. There were tears of joy and sadness depending on which television news outlet you watched.

As a millennial, I grew up in a world where Roe v Wade always existed. How can I as a woman, as a human, tell another woman what she can or cannot do with their body? Not every pregnancy is greeted with joy and laughter, gender reveals, and photoshoots. Whatever the circumstances behind a woman's pregnancy, it is a personal decision. A decision that has now been taken away from many women and placed in the hands of the state.

States quickly began to implement bans on abortion as soon as midnight the day after Roe was overturned, with what appeared to be very little regard for what this meant to women and the healthcare providers they would turn to for help and assistance. Soon, stories began to circulate of women entering emergency rooms in states where abortions were banned seeking medical assistance related to ectopic pregnancies, septic uteruses, and partial miscarriages. Stories of doctors calling their lawyers on how to proceed while women waited in the emergency department also emerged. Honestly, the idea of it all blew my mind. In some states, a medical provider could lose their license for providing care to these women.

I had to walk away from social media and the talking heads on the news. Depending on the network, some people were praising the decision while others were in dismay. Rep. Mary Miller (R-Ill.) made what appeared to be a Freudian slip while thanking former President Trump, whereas former First Lady Michelle Obama stated how heartbroken she was over the decision. In addition to politicians discussing their joy or woe, people are now attempting to make a profit from the abortion ban by purchasing Plan B in bulk for resale purposes. People are behaving like they did during the toilet paper and Lysol shortage at the beginning of the pandemic, but this is monumentally more severe.

After a few days of attempting to avoid the topic, I had to face the inevitable: The Supreme Court voted to overturn the ruling on Roe v Wade, and for some states, abortions were banned no matter whether conception was the result of rape or incest.

One such case has taken front row over the past few days is that of a young girl in Ohio. Here, we have a 10-year-old girl that was raped and brought before a child abuse doctor in her hometown, who then reached out to an ob/gyn in Indiana to assist because Ohio has banned abortions. Having survived such trauma, this child must now travel across state lines for medical assistance.

As women seek abortions across state lines, there are so many questions that healthcare providers will grapple with. Some states are attempting to prosecute women who choose to do so. There are strong concerns, not only about the decision to travel across state lines but about what happens if there are medical complications after the procedure? Where can these women go? Will they be prosecuted for going to the nearest emergency department should there be a complication upon their return home?

While politicians battle over what they feel is best for women, healthcare providers must now grapple with breaking the law to provide safe care for women at such a crucial moment in their lives. This decision appears to be made with very little thought on how healthcare systems should move forward.

As healthcare workers, we are expected to treat accused and convicted murderers, serial rapists, and so many others. But now, in some states, women who have been raped and are victims of incest are to be denied care. I am honestly struggling to understand.

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About Latoya L. Stewart
Latoya Stewart is Jamaica-born and New Jersey–raised, this millennial mom of two is navigating her way through middle management while quieting her middle-child syndrome. A graduate of UMDNJ and Rutgers University, she received her bachelor's in journalism, history, and nursing as well as her master's of science in nursing. Like most nurses, she believes she has a heart of gold and the mouth of a drunken sailor. Follow her on Instagram: @mindoftoya

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