It’s hard to ignore the recent Trumpination and the waves of unrest that have rippled across America and beyond. While I’m in the UK, there’s no denying the trepidation, shock, uncertainty and anger that has been felt. With the changes to effectively, over time, dismantle Obamacare and the new abortion policy, it’s no wonder there are protests and petitions at this precarious time.
The recent viral photograph, depicting a bunch of men deciding on legislation that Trump is seen to be signing, regards the rights and choices of women. In itself, that paperwork doesn’t affect US services, but it does impact those outside of the country. It’s a ban on unrestricted funding when it comes to abortion, meaning organisations must agree to “neither perform nor actively promote abortion as a method of family planning in other nations”.
Abortion will always be a highly contested topic on moral, political, scientific and religious grounds.
Maybe I’m a fence sitter, but I can see the implications and arguments on both sides. But I also see that no two situations are the same, that the issues surrounding its use are complex. They can’t be reduced to a one size fits all answer to suit everyone.
I do believe that, given the current restrictions in place regarding termination limits, the choice is that of the woman in question. I’m fully pro-choice in that sense. Not that it’s always much of a “choice” or something that is wanted. “Choice” seems like too flippant, too carefree a word to use given the distraught feelings likely accompanying such a situation for women facing having a termination.
What’s causing uproar about this photograph is less about the implications of abortion and more about how a group of men are debating and deciding on issues that are inherently female. How they cannot fully understand nor appreciate such issues from a body that can not nurture or give birth to a growing life.
To a good extent I think this is true. But what concerns me too is how this picture is all too often reflected on a broader spectrum within the world and indeed within medicine.
Specialists and surgeons form a predominantly male grouping with a hierarchy in their favour.
Once recent incident I want to share is with a gynaecologist I saw last year. He seemed quite open, confident in his abilities and personable. And yet he was patronising and condescending, such as his constant reference to “young women like you”, as though I / we were a different species, so identical that we could be stereotyped and banded together as such. When faced with an opinion that differed to his own, he relied on his authority to sweep it under the carpet as though my thoughts, my feelings and my experience with my own body did not merit a second thought. It is as though he had one point of reference from which to operate : a textbook.
This isn’t the only occasion where I felt this way or have come across male dominated areas of medicine. No one can truly understand how you feel or what you are going through unless they have experienced it for themselves, but there is an ability to empathise, to appreciate the views of someone else as if you were to put yourself “in their shoes”. This is about empathy, thinking outside of the box, admitting you are not always right, admitting there are grey areas and complexities that do not fit textbook descriptions. It is also about valuing the experiences of others.
Not demoralising those you group differently, such as how men may group women as being more sensitive or emotional. Such as how the experiences of women may be downgraded or ignored in favour of what the group in authority may believe to be true or more important.
Of course, the 21st century landscape is one of constant change and renewal, and we no longer live in a society totally divided by gender. However, some of it still remains, some of the inequalities still overshadow the positive progress that has been made.
But we can fight. We can speak up, make ourselves heard. We can choose to not back down when we feel we are being devalued or ignored. We can stay resilient and use our passion, our intelligence and our empathy to push forwards towards a more fair, more genuine and compassionate future for the sake of our health and the health of the next generation that deserves to be treated as a whole and worthy human being.