On September 9th, 2022, I experienced some of the most excruciating pain of my life– voluntarily. As I felt severe uterine contractions, I reminded myself that my IUD placement would be worth the pain, especially if the right to abortion was overturned in North Carolina. Although I am lucky enough to be able to afford to travel to another state if my reproductive rights are taken away, other women are not as lucky. I am not alone in my choice to rush to the doctor for long-term birth control. In the states where abortion is banned or restricted without exception for rape or incest, teens have rushed to Ob-Gyn offices and begged for long-term birth control “in case they get raped.” It is time to codify the right to abortion into federal law. If not, women will live in fear that their rights will be stripped away, and that they will be forced to carry an unwanted pregnancy to term.
When I read that Roe v Wade was overturned, I felt a lump of fear and anger build in my stomach. I go to school in a state that could restrict or ban abortion at any minute. My 93% effective birth control pills were no longer sufficient considering the uncertainty of my access to reproductive healthcare, so I decided to opt for an IUD, which has an efficacy rate of over 99%. I had long been scared of the pain women report with IUD insertion, but I needed to minimize the chance that I would have to travel to a different state for abortion access if my rights were taken away.
Within a year of having my IUD placed, NC would gain a Republican supermajority after Representative Tricia Cotham switched parties, further threatening abortion access. Once an ardent supporter of the right to choose, Cotham now says she would be “open” to limits on abortion. A group of House Republicans in NC have proposed House Bill 533, which makes it a felony to perform abortion except in the case where the mother’s life is threatened. The Republican supermajority makes this bill much more likely to pass than before, and millions of women will be hurt by this decision. Under the current law which allows for abortion up to 20 weeks, NC is a hotspot for women seeking abortion from states where the procedure is banned. Not only has the state experienced a 37% jump in abortions since Roe was overturned, but nurses are overwhelmed, and some have found patients sleeping in their cars as they wait for appointments to open up. The state’s abortion providers are already strained by this reality and banning abortion in North Carolina would make it even harder for women from adjacent states to receive the reproductive health care they need.
There are significant consequences of carrying an unwanted pregnancy to term. Mothers who keep their children must bear the expense of raising a child; the average cost spent by a family during the first 18 years of their child’s life is $310,605. Further, if a woman gives up her child for adoption, she is likely to experience emotions such as grief, loss, and despair that may occur yearly on the anniversary of the adoption. No woman should be forced to bear these burdens, whether financial or emotional.
At its best, pregnancy can result in bloating, cramping, nausea, or fatigue. At its worst, pregnancy can cause complications such as anxiety, depression, hypertension, or urinary tract infections. Forcing women to experience these conditions is antithetical to the ethic of our nation, which promotes personal liberty. Abortion is not a fun procedure, but ensuring federal access guarantees that women will retain control over their lives, and that certain women and certain states aren’t strained by unequal abortion access. 61% of Americans believe that abortion should be legal in all or most cases, so Congress should vote to support public opinion. Federally codified abortion access is necessary, and hopefully, when the national right to reproductive healthcare is reinstated, thousands of women like me will not have to undergo an invasive procedure just to protect their bodily autonomy.
Grace Kurtz-Nelson (PPS ‘25) is from Chicago, IL and an Undergraduate at Duke University’s Sanford School of Public Policy. This piece was submitted as an op-ed in the Spring ‘23 PUBPOL 301 course. This content does not represent the official or unofficial views of the Sanford School, Polis, Duke University, or any entity or individual other than the author.