Opinions

OPINION: Gara will protect Alaska women’s right to make their own health choices

stock medical doctor

“The most important thing in the world is to love children and take good care of them,” I explained to my 3-year-old decades ago, after I finished yelling at a politician on the radio. Here’s why I support Les Gara, the only abortion-rights candidate in this race for governor, and the one who has stood taller for our foster youth and our children than any other candidate.

As a retired obstetrician-gynecologist and business owner, I want intelligence, hard work, the ability to listen and honesty from politicians. As well, they need to care about the people they serve more than what they can do for their cronies or their own glory. I want a governor who will work to protect the rights that are necessary for women, children and families to thrive. Les Gara’s years in the Legislature gained him significant respect for his understanding of Alaska’s business, budget, infrastructure and tax issues, but in the area of caring about Alaskans, Les Gara really stands head and shoulders above his rivals.

America (and Alaska) is doing even worse than when I yelled at the radio, not only for our children but our whole population. In the past 30 years, our maternal mortality rates have worsened alarmingly, pay has not kept up with inflation, women and families are hobbled without affordable child care, public schools are struggling, and our statistics for child hunger, neglect, abuse and even homicide/accidental death are shocking. The foster care system is inadequate and needs more help than the postal service.

OB-GYNs know that a heartbeat on ultrasound is evidence of a new life. I spent a career joining patients celebrating the thrill of that wondrous finding, but also trying to help those experiencing the anguish of infertility, repeated miscarriages, impregnation by rape, the distress of a fetus with significant or even mortal defects, and pregnancies so troubled that they caused financial ruin. I have seen women die from complications, and many others who risked their own health from pregnancy. How each woman assesses her economic, religious, health, support and educational situation to embrace or reject a pregnancy is highly individual; I was in awe of each of those women who made the very complex decisions that were right for her.

When women have ready access to quality contraception, most embrace its use. Happily, abortion rates declined to historic lows after Obamacare made affordable quality contraception available to virtually all women. Bizarrely, many of the candidates who oppose abortion also oppose contraception. Mississippi and Texas have now passed state laws severely limiting access to abortion, and we anticipate that this summer the Supreme Court will likely dismantle Roe v. Wade. We have already seen women traveling to other states to obtain abortions in large numbers; one woman in Texas was charged criminally for her abortion. As in other countries where abortion is criminalized, women presenting for care of miscarriages may soon be treated as criminals.

If SCOTUS dismantles Roe, I anticipate we will see many women forced to parent when it is wrong for them; in many cases, their family situations and the lives of their other children will degrade as their burdens increase. Studies show that when women are forced to parent after being denied abortions, their unwanted children are more likely to become delinquents and/or criminals.

The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG) states: “Like all medical matters, decisions regarding abortion should be made by patients in consultation with their health care providers and without undue interference by outside parties. Like all patients, women obtaining abortion are entitled to privacy, dignity, respect, and support. The best health care is provided free of political interference in the patient-physician relationship. Personal decision-making by women and their doctors should not be replaced by political ideology.”

Sixty-three percent of Alaskans agree, and feel that abortion should be legal in all or most cases. Not surprisingly, the figure is higher among physicians, especially OB-GYNs. Alaska’s current and past governors both worked to limit women’s access to contraception (via Medicaid expansion) and/or access to abortion. The silent majority of Alaskans who care about women and children, their health and that of their families, individual rights and the right to privacy in these complex decisions, should join me in supporting Les Gara to be Alaska’s next governor. He has all the qualifications Alaskans need and deserve.

Dr. Tina R. Tomsen is a retired obstetrician-gynecologist in Anchorage. She received her medical degree from University of Oklahoma College of Medicine and was in practice for more than 20 years.

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