At this moment, Iowans are actively voting for the next president of the United States. Recent precedent and fairness demand that these voters should have their voices heard; the winner of this election should be the one to make the crucial appointment that would fill the seat vacated by the late Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg. Shamefully, politicians in the U.S. Senate have ignored these principles, and are instead seeking to advance a nominee to the court before the November election, even amid severe public health concerns in the White House and on Capitol Hill as more and more political leaders test positive for COVID-19.
To make matters worse, these senators are seeking to replace Justice Ginsburg, a champion for women’s equality, including reproductive freedom and equitable access to health care, with Judge Amy Coney Barrett. As a female doctor who provides reproductive health care, including abortion, and who advocates for access to this care, I know that Judge Barrett’s record of opposing reproductive autonomy and the Affordable Care Act would jeopardize our fundamental right to equality in health care, in schools, and at work. If her worldview becomes reality, it would decimate the right to bodily autonomy, eviscerate access and coverage of health care for those who need it most, turn back protections for survivors of sexual harassment, and undo decades of progress for LGBTQ+ communities and people of color.
The COVID outbreak in Washington, D.C. only further illustrates the urgency of addressing the pandemic. At a time when our nation is in crisis, when the Senate has yet to pass legislation that would provide the relief needed to help Americans get through the pandemic, and our country continues to reckon with white supremacy, institutionalized racism, and the continued devaluation of Black lives, the last thing our elected leaders should be doing is rushing to confirm a justice who would make all these problems even worse.
The elimination of contraception and abortion care protections is not hypothetical. More than a dozen cases on sexual and reproductive rights are one step away from being decided on by the Supreme Court. Adding another anti-abortion justice to the Court could dramatically increase the odds that abortion will be further restricted in the years to come.
And the ways that Barrett would threaten access to health care go far beyond abortion. The Supreme Court will hear yet another case challenging the Affordable Care Act just after the election, and a ruling against the law could immediately jeopardize health care for more than 20 million people. Protections for people with preexisting conditions, including the nearly 7 million who tested positive for COVID-19 in the U.S., Medicaid expansion, preventive services, and protections against discrimination in health care, could disappear practically overnight.
If Judge Barrett’s confirmation does result in reduced access to abortion and other health care, the communities most impacted will be the ones where this care is already inaccessible for many — especially communities of color, people living on low income, and those in rural communities.
As a provider, I’ve seen how political attacks on reproductive health care can devastate the lives of struggling Americans. I cared for a patient from out of state recently who previously arranged a doctor’s appointment to receive an IUD for contraception. Her doctor’s office stopped seeing visits that were considered “elective” during the shutdown, so her visit was moved out a few weeks. In the meantime, she couldn’t get her birth control pill prescription refilled because she had not been seen recently enough. As the pandemic caused closures of small businesses nationwide, she lost her job and was without income or health insurance. Ultimately, she experienced an unplanned pregnancy and sought abortion care. Due to local waiting periods, restrictions and barriers she was then forced to travel out of state to Iowa for this essential health care.
ARTICLE CONTINUES BELOW ADVERTISEMENT
This woman simply wanted to prevent an unplanned pregnancy, but a health care system that doesn’t hold contraception as essential and ties insurance to employment, along with federal and state governments that needlessly restrict abortion access, failed her and caused her emotional and financial harm. If Barrett is confirmed, situations like this will become even more widespread.
The numerous crises we are facing as a nation require urgent action, and our country needs real support for our health care providers and their patients, not ideological attacks on health care. I urge Senators Chuck Grassley and Joni Ernst to hold on this illegitimate confirmation process and put the health of Iowans first instead of playing politics.
Dr. Abbey Hardy-Fairbanks is an obstetrician-gynecologist in Iowa and fellow with Physicians for Reproductive Health