New York Health Commissioner Mary Bassett shares her story on abortion

Mike Wren / New York State Department of Health

Today, abortion is a difficult issue. But when I needed an abortion as a medical student in 1979, it wasn’t a difficult decision for me.

I was at the Columbia College of Physicians and Surgeons, preparing to do a grueling internship in internal medicine at Haarlem Hospital. So far, I had spent my entire young adult life – eight years in school and countless hours of work, study and testing – preparing to be a doctor, not a parent. I was almost there.

I was surprised to find out I was pregnant because my partner and I were using contraception. But I was not shocked. I knew that no contraceptive was completely reliable. I was more educated then than most. Sex education – including contraception and abortion options – were not topics that were regularly discussed by primary care physicians, even for those whose patients were like me: women who were sexually active and at the best age for someone looking for reproductive health as a basic health need.

My own decision-making process was quick. How can a first-year intern who is expected to work 36-hour shifts also carry and care for a child? She – I – could not. I turned to the same institution that had provided me and generations before me with safe contraception: the Planned Parenthood Center in New York. Only this time I needed a safe, legal and affordable abortion. I haven’t looked back since.

So far.

Now, as New York State’s health commissioner and devoted mother of two older daughters, I – like many others – look forward to the painful, pending reversal of the U.S. Supreme Court ruling. deer, going back nearly 50 years of constitutionally protected abortion rights, with disgust and disappointment. This is such a difficult and so anti-utopian reality that it is difficult to understand that our country is here again.

protester holding a sign reading

Protest for abortion rights in Los Angeles on June 9.

CHIU RINGGetty Images

Like any other person who has an abortion, my story did not end after my procedure. Because abortion is not the only choice. Rather, it is one that is intertwined with many: the right to study, the right to work, the right to mental health, and the right to start a family when one is physically or financially able to choose. If it weren’t for the abortion I had before I started my internship, I wouldn’t be New York’s health commissioner today. More importantly, I would not be the devoted mother I could have been to my two older daughters for more than 34 years. These two beautiful women may not even be here. My career and my children are the product of my hard work and choices, supported by society and the health care system, which once understood the need for the individual’s right to choose his or her own destiny.

Now is the time to actively reaffirm the fundamental value that all people should have the right to freedom over their own bodies – medical freedom and human rights. Withdrawal of the right to abortion will not stop abortion – it never has – but it will make these procedures more desperate, deadly and dangerous. For those who will not be able to overcome the new barriers – black communities or those who are poorer, with fewer resources and less time – the consequences will be most serious. Seismic inequalities will now deepen, crushing those who need more access to health care, not less.

It’s time to be noisy and it’s time to act. Recently, Governor Katie Hochul announced $ 35 million in funding to support abortion providers and expand their capacity, expecting even more to come to New York in search of abortion care. We also take steps to codify national legislation to clinical standards and reviewed public health management bodies, actions that guarantee the health of all people are based on medical expertise and never on politics. Like in 1970three years ago deer became law, New York State will once again be an example to the nation, providing and protective safe access to abortion for all who need it.

Abortion is a health problem that affects our entire population, regardless of individual choices.

And yet this is more than what a country has done and will do. If access to reproductive health is to be protected, it will be maintained by the power of public policy, the promise of public health and the will of the people. Therefore, everyone who respects the rights of women and all men must work together to preserve and uphold these rights. For those of us in public health, we need to consider ways to increase the availability of drugs for oral abortion and expanding the number of suppliers who can work in different countries, not just within. We must continue to break down barriers for those who continue to need more education, resources and support to access safe abortions. And we must demonstrate the enormous individual, social and economic success that follows safe access to abortion as a key component of health for all.

My story about abortion, as part of my life story, is for me: the whole person, the professional and the mother that abortion allowed me to be. In the same light, abortion is a health problem that affects our entire population, regardless of individual choices.

Every woman, every girl, and every human being must know, in essence, that their health, their choices, and their lives — as they choose to live it — are of excessive value to all.

Until then, there is work. For me and your children.

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