On Sept. 18, I settled in for a quiet Friday night after another kick-butt med school quiz. My plans consisted of Netflix, a full glass of wine and the comfiest sweatpants I own.
I sat down at my couch, and almost like the universe knew I was starting to relax, my phone lit up with a stream of notifications. Texts from my closest female friends poured in, and all were about the same thing: Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s death.
The night quickly turned into emotional conversations over what this meant for our country and, specifically, what this meant for women.
In my friend circle, Justice Ginsburg had become an icon for female resilience in a world that is dominated by men. She opened the doors for women (and men!) in settings where they were not allowed before, starting with her landmark case Reed v. Reedthat set the precedent for ruling against gender-based discrimination.
Our conversations tended to focus on her work as an advocate for women's reproductive rights, fighting for legal, and therefore safe, termination procedures for women (Whole Woman's Health v. Hellerstedt, 2016) as well as for fair treatment of active duty military women who chose to maintain their pregnancy (Struck v. Secretary of Defense).
My whole Friday night was spent on Twitter, reading the fears and lamentations of women all across the United States. They hypothesized on what her death and subsequent empty seat on the Supreme Court would mean for reproductive health care access and choice. And it makes sense. For those of us women who are pro-abortion rights and/or pro-access to birth control, it’s personal.
Reproductive health care access and a woman’s choice has a special importance to me as both a future physician and a female consumer who relies on our health care system to provide access to necessary care.
The situation resembles what occurred after Donald Trump won the presidency in 2016, with the Journal of the American Medical Association reporting a surge in the number of long-acting reversible contraception procedures. About 700 more were reported per day in the 30 business days after the election when compared to other election years, according to the journal.
While not enough time has passed to statistically analyze if a similar event is occurring at the present moment, the emotions strewn over Twitter mirror a similar mindset to that in 2016. Women feel like their previously protected rights are at risk.
This is further exacerbated by the announcement of Judge Amy Coney Barrett, a judge with a uniformly conservative voting record, as the nominee to replace Justice Ginsburg just a week after her death.
Not only does this choice of nominee go against Justice Ginsburg’s life work (while reaping the benefit of that work, I might add) but the fact that the process is going forward is an insult to the late Justice and her years of work.
The way to honor that work is not to rush forward with an appointment, barely a month before a presidential election no less, but to take measures to protect birth control access for women and to protect the many facets that the precedent of Roe v. Wade set. Until that is done, basic reproductive health care will continue to be at the liberty of politicians and not in the hands of the women who are directly affected.