With the recent rash of states restricting abortion rights, doctors are often left out of the conversation around this highly politicized medical procedure. Photographer Melissa Golden attended the March for Reproductive Freedom in Birmingham, Alabama, on May 19, 2019, and spoke with doctors and medical students about their views on the new restrictions. Here are their thoughts.
Sofia Buenaventura, MD Obstetrics and Gynecology
“I’m here for one reason: advocating for my patients and just making sure that they have the rights to get a safe abortion in the future. Nobody should have that right taken away from them.”
Audra Williams, MD, MPH Obstetrics and Gynecology
“I was born in Alabama, I grew up here. I left and got my medical training in other parts of the country — and now I’m back to serve the women of Alabama, and they deserve better. That’s why I’m here today."
Whitney Goldsberry, MD Gynecologic Oncology
“Abortion doesn’t stop just because it’s banned. It only means that those procedures are performed unsafely, and the result is that more women will suffer and more women will die as a result of this.”
Rodrigo D. Muñoz, 4th-year medical student
“I think it’s my responsibility as a future OBGYN to fight for my patients ... so that I can practice the full range of obstetric and gynecologic health care.”
Sarah Dilley, MD, MPH Gynecologic Oncology
“I decided to become an abortion provider when I was in Africa in a country that had an abortion law that is very similar to the one that Alabama just passed, and I saw a woman die from an unsafe abortion. … It is an absolute honor and a privilege to get to do what I do.
"I have trained most of my adult life to learn how to take care of women at every stage of their life, whether that’s when they are 12 and getting their first period, if they’re 35 and having a hard time getting pregnant, if they are in their twenties and having a baby for the first time, or they’re in their sixties and they’re being diagnosed with cancer — it’s an absolute honor to get to take care of women during every single part of their reproductive life.
"Abortion is just as much a part of that as any of those other absolutely incredible milestones and parts of their life. If we the physicians who understand the nuances and the importance of abortion don’t stand up for our patients, then who’s gonna do it?”
Rebecca Arend, MD Gynecologic Oncology
“I’m a GYN oncologist at UAB Birmingham and I did my residency at Columbia, where I was very involved in family planning there and [I] owe a ton to the women who trained me to be able to safely give abortions to first and second trimester women who need them.
"I continued my passion in women’s health care and as an oncologist. The fact that I could potentially have a woman with cervical cancer or some other type of cancer in their first trimester and not have the option to cure them because of a law — and if I did I would go to jail for 99 years — is extremely upsetting. So I’m here to represent women, my patients, my colleagues.”
Margaret Liang, MD Gynecologic Oncology
“I’m here today as a women’s health care provider. Crazily, this is the first time I’ve actually been to a rally or march of any sort and it’s been a really impactful experience, and I’m here trying to fight for women’s safety and the ability for them to make evidence-based, patient-centered decisions about their health care, including their reproductive freedoms.”
Harriet Washington, 4th-year medical student
“I’m really passionate about women’s health, about women’s issues and women’s rights, so that’s why I’m here today. I came to medical school and I wanted to be a physician because I really cared about women and their health care, and I care about everyone in general. I really wanted to impact the state of Alabama and its health care, so that’s why I’m here today — because I’m really passionate about it.
"I wanted to say that abortion is health care, obstetrics is health care, and contraception and family planning is health care.”
Storm McWhorter, 4th-year medical student
“I’m here today because abortion is part of health care, and no one — no matter their gender, race, or socioeconomic status — should have the power to dictate another individual’s access to health care.”
Savannah N. Johnson, 4th-year medical student
“I’m here today because I think as a future physician I have an obligation to be informed on issues that affect our patients, and I also have an obligation to stand up for what’s right for them. So whether that’s abortion, whether that’s expanding Medicaid, whether it’s access to quality education — all those affect my patients’ health and so I think that I should be an active participant in the discussions.”
Melissa Golden in a photographer based in Atlanta. To see more of her work, visit her website.