VOICES: Pro-choice and Pro-life: Full Reproductive Rights for Women

In 1996, after certifying as a women’s health nurse practitioner, I came home. Completing training and a first job at a women’s health clinic associated with Stanford University Hospital, was an eye-opening experience. Grand rounds with the Stanford Medical School visiting OB/GYN professors was heaven…so much to bring back to Kaua’i.

The shock that Planned Parenthood was gone. Volunteering with Dr. Goodwin had made clear the desperate needs for good contraception, STD testing and medications, and the occasional misfortunes of unplanned pregnancies referred out. Most of them were not teens.

IUDs, or injections for long-term contraception seemed quite limited. Just for those with insurance. Lots of women didn’t have any. Teens were afraid to use their parents’ insurance

No abortion services on Kaua‘i. Failure to provide full medical care that women deserve. A choice, access to the full range of reproductive services, including the option to terminate an unwanted, unmanageable, unplanned pregnancy. Pregnancy is often a time of increased abuse and partner violence, especially those using substances.

What had happened? Were physicians afraid of upsetting the community? Their staff?

A medical procedure, legal and safer than childbirth now hidden like a dark secret, put out of reach for those not wealthy enough to go to O‘ahu.

Who decides what is right for your body? Not the neighbors. No one is allowed in your bedroom or your body unless you consent. Not the insurance company, not the medical facility, not the staff. Health privacy, under HIPAA, requires your permission to share information.

In a democracy, you choose where you live, what you will do when you grow up, who you can marry, what religion you practice. It is freedom of choice.

The First Amendment to the Constitution protects freedom of speech. Protecting the right of a woman to have a say in her health care is critical to her wellbeing and that of her family.

Which is why I am entirely pro-choice AND pro-life. It isn’t my job to have an opinion, it is my job to be a patient advocate. To ensure they have full disclosure before any consents.

Support women with having ALL the information on all three choices, and the risks, side effects of each. Letting them choose frees them from my opinions. It also empowers them in choosing what is right for them.

Women have often shared with me the complete change of mind, from one position to another, by having INFORMED CONSENT, a legal requirement. It is malpractice otherwise, if she is not fully aware of her rights and her responsibilities in the matter.

If I do my job well, I tell the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth. And the truth is that all three choices are challenging, hard and have lifelong impacts.

Reproductive rights are being challenged across the country; more rights being stripped from women. Texas is only the first. Thankfully, Hawai‘i has always been a leader in providing health-care for women. But we must not take our freedoms and access for granted. While we sleep, rights are being stolen. We must stay awake and aware and protect our community. Women are stronger when their rights are supported. Strong women build strong families, a strong community and a strong economy.

Virginia Beck, NP emeritus, RN, Kalaheo


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