Rozalyn Farmer Love, an Alabama woman from a conservative Christian family, is just one of a group of medical students committed to keeping abortion available in the wake of Dr. George Tiller's assassination.
Medical Students for Choice is based in Philadelphia, and has more than 10,000 members in the US and Canada. The group works "to destigmatize abortion provision among medical students and residents, and to persuade medical schools and residency programs to include abortion as a part of the reproductive health services curriculum." It's an important goal in a country where the number of abortion providers has declined by nearly half since the 1980s, and 90% of counties have no provider at all.
In her moving first-person piece, Rozalyn Farmer Love talks about her commitment to providing abortion as an option for women, and her family's opposition to that commitment. In college, she writes,
I sat in hospital rooms with young women who would look at me and say, "I can't be pregnant. I just couldn't carry his baby." I could feel their desperation.
At the same time, I found myself shocked at how little many of my friends — women who were studying biology and planning to become doctors — knew about their own sexual health. They didn't know about or couldn't get the reproductive health care they needed because of barriers put up by their culture, their religion and their parents, whose sole contribution to sex ed was generally an unspoken "Thou shalt not!" One friend begged me to help her concoct a legitimate-sounding excuse — painful or irregular periods, say — for why she needed to be on birth control. No one could know the real reason: She was sexually active and didn't want to get pregnant.
She doesn't talk to her parents about her pro-choice views, and, "at the start of medical school, I was very careful about how I presented my pro-choice views to the faculty for fear that I could jeopardize my grades or hurt my chances for recommendations or of being accepted into a program run by any of the professors." While she is afraid of "what seventh grade might be like for my children if I choose to provide abortions," she understands that abortion — even third-trimester abortion — is a right that must be safeguarded, and despite her conservative upbringing, she knows it is a moral decision to help safeguard it.
Shannon Connelly, a board member of Medical Students for Choice, says that, "for every anti-choice extremist, there are many people who would love to show their support for our cause." Love is one example. So are the 2,000 to 3,000 people who donated to Medical Students for Choice in the days following Tiller's murder. The group wants to use the funds to honor Tiller's memory "in a direct way," perhaps by providing scholarships so that more medical students can receive abortion training. It's tragic that Dr. Tiller is now a memory who must be honored, instead of a living inspiration, but supporters of choice everywhere can take heart that his legacy goes on.
My Choice [Washington Post]
Medical Students Fill Survivor Role for Dr. Tiller [Women's eNews]
Medical Students for Choice [Official Site]