The new abortion ban in Missouri and the licensing restrictions with Planned Parenthood are serious and devastating to women’s health, and they are detrimental to the well-being of young people.
While most of us are lucky enough to never see or hear the dark underbelly of terrible crimes that happen to young women that can lead to a pregnancy — I, as a doctor, see young people who have experienced rape, incest, sexual abuse and human trafficking way too often.
The view from my office is distressing, upsetting and also a beautiful tribute to the power of the human spirit to overcome adversity. I listen, sometimes cry, offer hugs, provide medical care, be there and breathe with the devastation, anger and sadness these crimes wreak on young women.
Sometimes even more distressing, a pregnancy from these heinous crimes occurs. It is in these moments, when I give this terrible news, in the face of overwhelming trauma, that the walls of my exam room feel like they close in on us and my heart breaks.
After the visit, I often head out the back door to the parking lot at my clinic and breathe in the air to bring my pulse down and regain my composure. Some days this works better than others, and keep in mind, I am not the person who lived through it. Over the years I have worked to have my heart break open to a deeper level of compassion, but it is challenging.
I do this work quite simply because it has always been my belief that no one should have to be alone in these terrible moments and because I love young people. I try all of the time to encourage healthy relationships, promote youth leadership, help youth achieve paths through education and prevent unwanted pregnancy with high-quality medical care and health information. Luckily for me, I have a team of incredible people who do this work with me. But we cannot stop all heinous crimes, and we need women to have choices about their bodies and their futures.
I can understand people opposing abortion. These are hard, difficult and personal decisions. I ask you to walk in the shoes of the young women I serve.
Please think about facing sexual abuse or neglect for years from a family member such that you question whether your life is worth living. Think about being trafficked with no control over who uses your body and whether you are ever safe. Think about being unsure where your next meal is coming from or if you will sleep in your car or in the park.
Think about experiencing flashbacks and nightmares from rape or incest such that you wake up every night screaming in a cold sweat for months. Think about someone raping you at gunpoint. Think about, in the midst of all of this challenge, adding a pregnancy.
I rarely describe to others the depths of the devastation I see. I honestly do not want others to experience trauma from what I share, but today, in these times, I am asking you to open up your hearts and see. We have gone too far.
Katie Plax is a St. Louis-area adolescent medicine doctor.