I drive through my leafy suburb, awash in beautiful foliage. It’s peak color, with vermillion juxtaposed with citrine and crimson. And I see the reality of our ugly world peeking in every so often. Proposition 3 signs are casually sprinkled on lawns, intersections, and billboards; they’re in harsh black and white, implying the proposition is too confusing or too extreme. And the issue it represents is a clear-cut dichotomy.
We are in Michigan, where reproductive rights access may fall by the wayside. We will vote today, tomorrow, absentee or in person, for the right to keep the legislators out of our exam rooms, operating rooms, and conversations with our patients. The ballot initiative’s wording is not confusing: the proposal would invalidate an archaic law from 1931 and allow individual reproductive freedom, whether for prenatal care or pregnancy disruption. It would establish and reaffirm an individual right to make these decisions.
The initiative would protect the conversations we have with our teenagers who need proper, comprehensive reproductive care. Physicians and providers would be protected when acting within the standard of care as established by the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists. We would speak freely and without fear of prosecution, act within the best medical practice when faced with impending emergencies, and treat patients without fear of jail or prosecution.
Nothing about this debate is black and white. How can legislation reduce it to a simple yes or no, a proposal, a billboard, a “confusing” and “extreme” movement? What legislator could sit here in my shoes, holding hands with a grieving family who just got the news of an incomplete or inevitable miscarriage and forces them to prolong their grief? Who could watch someone suffer longer while waiting for an ethics consult, which delays the standards of care for miscarriage? Who could listen to proposals like those in Ohio, where the legislators recommend physicians reimplant ectopic pregnancies in a uterus? Where did the science go? And humanity?
There is nothing confusing about bodily autonomy, and we, as physicians, should champion it. We shouldn’t be thinking of where our college-age kids are studying, what will happen to them when they are sexually assaulted on campuses, or what will happen if their chronic medication is not filled because of the religious comforts of health care professionals. We shouldn’t have to worry about loss of livelihood if they call us, asking for our advice regarding pregnancy prevention.
And worst of all, when ambushed about our thoughts on the proposal, we shouldn’t have to hide behind the facade of being a moderate on the issue. We should be able to answer that we support proposal 3 resoundingly, support reproductive autonomy, and respect our patients’ decision-making process. After all, we trained for this. After all, we trained for this.
Yuliya Malayev is an obstetrician-gynecologist.
Image credit: Shutterstock.com