Perhaps you are wondering why you’ve not heard from me about the Dobbs versus Jackson Women’s Health decision. Believe me, it is not because I don’t care about it or because I am afraid to speak. For three years prior to becoming an academic, I spent most of my working life counseling teens and young adults as they made choices about unplanned pregnancies. Their circumstances were as varied as their beautiful faces. The young woman who was actively suicidal. The sixteen-year-old whose sweet, young boyfriend sat with her as we talked. The one who was terrified to tell her parents but wanted to. (We did that together.) The patient whose asthma was so severe she had to be intubated when something set it off. Some chose to terminate; some chose to carry their pregnancies to term. Some were pressured to make particular choices. Some had their family’s unconditional support. For all, my goal was the same, to help them make a decision that was in keeping with their values, their needs, their hopes, and their realities. They looked in the mirror. They knew what choices they could and wanted to live with, not me, not their doctor, not their family members, and certainly not the government. All decisions have consequences; they had to find their own voice.
There are many narratives about abortion and each tells a story but no one story is complete. Over the last week, I’ve thought about people who have cancer and need to terminate a pregnancy to receive treatment, people encountering a miscarriage who will have to endure more suffering than they already are. Low-income families and those otherwise marginalized, as always, will feel the greatest impact. But we will all be affected – our sons, our daughters, our neighbors, ourselves. I find myself greatly relieved that I’m past child-bearing age even as I am filled with anxiety for my young friends and family members who are not.
When health and well-being are so threatened, what is our task as a community of scholars and practitioners? The real-world implications are so severe that we cannot hide behind worries about being “biased, uncivil, or too political.” We need to use our science, our moral, political, and legal analyses, and our empathy to help our state make the best decisions for our citizens. As the University of the People, to do so is our job and our honor.
As I’m sure you know, I do not and cannot speak for the University on these matters. So, I speak for myself and hope that provides you with a measure of courage and comfort in these difficult and uncertain days.
Mimi V. Chapman, MSW, PhD
Chair of the Faculty
Frank A Daniels Distinguished Professor for Human Service Policy Information
Associate Dean for Doctoral Education
School of Social Work