Panelists Aspen Ruhlin and Dr. Miriam Devlin led an open dialogue at the Wilson Center via Zoom on Oct. 27 regarding the Supreme Court’s decision to overturn Roe v. Wade.
Ruhlin is a client advocate at the Mabel Wadsworth Center in Bangor. The center strives to provide attainable healthcare and a safe, affirming environment to individuals of any gender or sexuality. Devlin is a local Franciscan nun and feminist with 63 years of experience as a healthcare provider.
Roe v. Wade was the landmark piece of legislation that granted abortion access in the United States as a federal right. However, on June 24, 2022, the Supreme Court overturned this case and repealed the law. The decision dismantled 50 years of legal protection, allowing individual states to diminish or outright ban abortion. As of now, 13 states have prohibited the procedure entirely, and five have set strict restrictions regarding when you can do so, with zero or vastly limited exceptions for rape and incest. By denying access to people seeking to terminate their pregnancies, states are forcing them to assume significant medical risk against their will, thus putting lives in immense danger.
Ruhlin began the conversation by providing examples of the unintentional stigmas people may be using in their discussions surrounding abortion. They explained how the stance of being pro-choice and not pro-abortion is a fallacy. No one is necessarily pro-abortion because there is no distinction between being for or against other medical procedures, such as a vasectomy. It is simply a matter of receiving the necessary care. Secondly, they talked about how people have been reinforcing the idea that abortions should be safe, legal and rare. The perspective that abortion should be a rarity indicates certain negative connotations and the ideology that it is a bad thing.
Next, Ruhlin described the importance of bodily autonomy, as well as the inclusion of marginalized groups and their right to choose. Society has a tendency to exclude transgender, disabled and impoverished people from the conversation. They talked about how access to this realm of healthcare should be given to everyone seeking it, not simply middle and upper-class white, cisgender women. The decision to terminate a pregnancy is a difficult one to make, and there should be guaranteed safety within clinics.
Devlin brought up the issue of morality. They believe when someone becomes pregnant, that person must decide for themselves what is the best course of action within their own mind, body and values. Although it can be beneficial to consider the input of your partner, family and friends, the choice must reflect your personal deliberation.
“I do not push for legislation. I push for them to get out of the medical field altogether,” Devlin said.
Maine has codified the language of Roe into law. Although the state provides legal access to abortion, it does not necessarily succeed in providing meaningful access to abortion. The legal foundation of Maine’s current law relies upon the right to privacy, which serves as a rather convoluted precedent.
“You shouldn’t have to make this decision in an atmosphere of legality and protest,” Devlin said.
The Mabel Wadsworth Center is an independent organization that provides a wide array of services including abortions, prenatal care, STI testing and access to contraceptives. They are consistently expanding their methods of care to meet the needs of our community. The clinic values its patients’ opinions and desires and is more than willing to listen to/guide people in choosing which path is best for them. For anyone wanting to contribute, they accept independent donations and strongly encourage people to get the word out about all that they have to offer.
For more information, visit https://www.mabelwadsworth.org/.