One of my first year students was a former surgical nurse, in her 30s, who had had to defer her dream of going to medical school because she had gotten pregnant as a teenager and was raising her child. Though she graduated, did a challenging residency and now has more children, I wonder how many other young women with the dreams we all started with are stopped at the gate by unplanned pregnancy. The recent political discussions about removing all federal support for Planned Parenthood has left me and my pediatrician sister both feeling like our hair is on fire. My student was exceptional in many ways. She did not have the luxury that we have had to worry about when it might be best for us to have our families, or the tools to make our choices feasible.
Choice about childbearing comes in many forms. In my own case, it was because I came through training at a time when professional women had trouble finding men who valued us--or maybe it was my evil temper. In any case, I married quite late and had my last child at age 39. This is not necessarily the path I recommend, but I do think that if we support women's professional aspirations, we should be committed to the proposition that all women should have access to reproductive health services. If Congress prevails, many women who might otherwise make up the next generations of mothers in medicine are going to be instead mothers who lack education, income and the privilege of being able to care for others as well as their own children, in the ways we all do.
I have been writing letters opposing the Congressional initiative to defund Planned Parenthood to my congressional representatives. I hope those who read this will be moved to do the same.