COLUMN: The only way to preserve reproductive rights is to vote

Individuals should not have to travel hundreds of miles, pay hundreds of dollars and face angry protesters to get an abortion.

Cela Migan is a sophomore journalism major at MU. She is an opinion columnist who writes about daily life for The Maneater.

As the 2020 Presidential election approaches and the vacancy on the Supreme Court waits to be filled, issues such as access to birth control and abortion rights are on the chopping block.

In September, HBO Max released the film “Unpregnant,” a road trip adventure in which the protagonist Veronica must travel 1,000 miles from Missouri to New Mexico to get an abortion without her parent’s permission. The film takes place in a fictionalized version of Columbia, Mo., and the only abortion clinic in Missouri, located in St. Louis, requires parental consent for minors.

The film largely focuses on the road trip to New Mexico between two former best friends rather than the abortion itself. However, there are some poignant moments in the film that speak to the difficulty involved in getting an abortion.

At one point in the film, Veronica screams “F*ck you Missouri State Legislature” and questions why women need parental consent to get an abortion but not have a baby. When scheduling her abortion, Veronica must have a surgical procedure because she is unable to attend the follow-up checkup required for a medical abortion. Although the film dramatizes the journey, it shows the lengths and hoops individuals must jump through to obtain an abortion.

The Planned Parenthood in Columbia lost its license to perform abortions in 2018, leaving the Planned Parenthood clinic in St. Louis the sole provider of legal abortions in Missouri. While the Columbia clinic requested to renew an injunction that would have allowed them to resume offering abortions in February 2019, a federal judge denied the request on the basis that they did not meet all the requirements for a license.

Restrictions and requirements for abortions limit access and even the fate of the St. Louis clinic is not certain. With an open seat in the Supreme Court, president Donald Trump nominated Amy Coney Barrett as the replacement Supreme Court justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg. As a conservative judge with a past of pro-life beliefs, Barrett’s presence would cause a conservative 6-3 majority in the Supreme Court.

With Roe v Wade constantly being challenged, the new conservative majority threatens its standing, along with countless other laws governing reproductive rights, LGBTQ+ rights, the Affordable Care Act and DACA. All of these laws deal with access and choice everyone should have to certain rights and services. Birth control not only prevents pregnancy, but can regulate and lessen periods, cramps and acne.

COVID-19 presents several difficulties for individuals seeking reproductive healthcare services. In place of in-person appointments, appointments must be virtual for obtaining birth control prescriptions and birth control must be mailed to the individual. Discouraging in-person appointments also limits an individual’s access to exams, IUD procedures and abortions.

Medication abortion is another option, but has several restrictions associated with its use. The drug, Mifeprex, must be administered by a physician who is a certified prescriber at a hospital, clinic or specified medical facility. Healthcare providers must meet certain requirements and register with the drug manufacturer to store the drug in-house, which can be costly. These requirements disincentivize health care providers from stocking and providing the drug. It is taken with the drug Misoprostol and it is safer to take than many over-the-counter drugs like Tylenol, according to Dr. Jamila Perritt, president and CEO of Physicians for Reproductive Health and board certified OB-GYN.

These restrictions limit access to medication abortions and cause women to have to travel out of their way — sometimes 1,000 miles — to get one. According to the World Health Organization website “3 out of 10 (29%) of all pregnancies, and 6 out of 10 (61%) of all unintended pregnancies, ended in an induced abortion. Among these, 1 out of 3 were carried out in the least safe or dangerous conditions.”

However, the WHO website says most abortions could be prevented through sex education, use of effective contraception, provision of safe, legal induced abortion and timely care for complications. Research shows these services are effective in lowering abortion rates, but limited access to these services prevents many individuals from utilizing them.

In Colorado, birth control is available over the counter at pharmacies. This coupled with supplying IUDs at health clinics caused the abortion rate in Colorado to decrease by 60% between 2009 and 2017. Oregon was the first state to allow pharmacists to write birth control prescriptions. Researchers found that this practice prevented over 50 unintended pregnancies in the first two years and saved the state $1.6 million in medical costs. Colorado and Oregon serve as examples of the success had with expanding access to birth control and other reproductive preventative services.

What is most important in relation to reproductive rights is access and the right to choose. Individuals should have the right to choose what they do with their body. Access to birth control and other preventative measures will let them have the right to choose.

Remember to vote in every election — especially the state elections. Voters have the power to change the Missouri State Legislature and the laws it passes that govern access to reproductive services.

In pursuit of racial and social equality, The Maneater encourages its readers to donate to the Groundswell Catalyst Fund. The Groundswell Catalyst Fund supports organizations that work to advance reproductive justice policy and systems change for women of color. Donate at: https://groundswellfund.org/give/

Edited by Sofi Zeman | szeman@themaneater.com

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