Take It From A Midwife: Abortions Save Lives

Abortion rights activists attend a July 9 march to the White House to denounce the U.S. Supreme Court decision to end federal abortion protections. (Kent Nishimura / Los Angeles Times via Getty Images)

As a community midwife, I know firsthand that abortion is healthcare—and the impact of the overturning of Roe v. Wade on healthcare is devastating. 

Millions of people have lost access to abortion, access to assisted reproductive technology, and access to feeling safe when seeking care for a miscarriage. While many have expressed shock that rights we’ve had for nearly 50 years (and that we should’ve had forever) could so easily be stripped away, abortion rights activists have been warning us of this day for years as they have battled on the frontlines of reproductive justice.

Having been a midwife for 13 years, part of my work is to support pregnant people as they make decisions around fertility and infertility, conception, pregnancy, labor, birth, postpartum recovery, miscarriage and, yes, abortion.

A few years ago, I accompanied a woman—I’ll call her Diana—to her abortion after I had supported her in her full term pregnancies and births. The timing of this pregnancy was far from ideal for many reasons, including her economic situation, new employment with no paid leave after birth and, as someone who had a previous C-section, a greater health risk for a complicated pregnancy and birth.

Diana and I discussed her options, including her right to access a safe abortion. She chose to go to a clinic that was part of an abortion funds network that provided financial assistance.

We lived in Florida, a state with waiting periods, so Diana lost work wages and had increased childcare costs for the two separate occasions she needed to present to the clinic to obtain care. We also made a safety plan, because there was a possibility of facing violent anti-choice activists in front of the clinic.

We finally made it into the clinic room, where a clinic professional had to perform an ultrasound per Florida law. The ultrasound image was projected onto a large screen with the doppler volume amplified to listen to the fetal heartbeat. There was no medical necessity for performing the ultrasound this way: Dopplers are not used in routine first trimester ultrasounds. Instead, it was weaponized to emotionally manipulate and coerce a patient into a potentially risky pregnancy that she did not want.

With the loss of Roe, even a manipulative choice is now lost to pregnant people in a huge swath of the country. It is not hyperbolic to say that many people will die because of this decision.

The U.S. has one of the highest maternal mortality rates among industrialized nations, and Black women are disproportionately impacted. Our shameful maternal mortality rates are due to lack of emergency medical care in a country rich with resources, and lack of access to preventative and holistic care, midwives and doulas, contraception and abortion. Uncoincidentally, states with the least access to abortion are also the places with the highest maternal mortality rates.

Losing access to abortion in the midst of a maternal health crisis is devastating. It is estimated to worsen the maternal mortality rate, particularly for Black people.

People are inhumanely forced into giving birth when they are unable to access contraception and abortion. This compulsion in a healthcare system with a lack of comprehensive reproductive care (including access to midwives and doulas) risks people’s lives. Add on the burdens of economic insecurity faced by new parents—particularly single mothers—the lack of parental leave and lack of support for childcare, the magnitude of the decision is immense.

Solutions that made Diana’s abortion possible, like abortion funds, must be supported. Movements that connect full-spectrum reproductive health care workers, such as midwives and doulas, will have a real-time impact on improving people’s access to abortion. Continuing to understand the racist and misogynistic origins of anti-choice movements and centering the voices, solutions, and leadership of those people on the front lines of the maternal health care crisis has never been more important.

Roe may have been overruled, but we must not despair. We must now be brave and bold—because our lives depend on it. 

Sign and share Ms.’s relaunched “We Have Had Abortions” petition—whether you yourself have had an abortion, or simply stand in solidarity with those who have—to let the Supreme Court, Congress and the White House know: We will not give up the right to safe, legal, accessible abortion.

Up next:


Anjali Sardeshmukh is a senior administrator at Insight Center and a practicing community midwife of 13 years.