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How Roe v. Wade Being Overturned Complicates Care for Chronic Illness Patients

I was diagnosed with a brain tumor in 2020 as an incidental finding after a routine MRI for migraines during the height of the pandemic. This was not my first diagnosis with a chronic or invisible illness, but proved to be an annoying diagnosis. I say this because it came with more questions than answers. Until you have the tumor removed or biopsied, there is no way to be 100% sure exactly what it is beyond the educated guesses of your amazing medical team.

In what I thought would be unrelated, I had an IUD eject itself a month or so prior to finding the tumor, so I was in the market for a new form of protection and menstrual control. Because I also have POTS, birth control has been extremely helpful in controlling some related blood pressure and migraine symptoms. While updating my OBGYN provider to get a new IUD, I was refused until I received clearance from my neurologist. The reasoning was that the hormones from birth control may or may not worsen the status of the tumor.

Now while I agree it is the provider’s job to inform the patient, the patient’s consent is the only consent that matters. As if I didn’t understand the repercussions when the duality of the hormones from an unwanted pregnancy wouldn’t be just as precarious, but obviously more so. My medical history is complex and nuanced and that IUD helps manage other conditions I must deal with on a daily basis. I did not have the luxury of just managing the tumor and leaving other conditions and their symptoms to be reactive.

I wrote my neurologist a light, but snarky email about how I’d rather be afflicted by the hormones of birth control than those of an unwanted pregnancy. His office faxed a letter to my OBGYN to clear me for my IUD, but the fact I had to ask him for birth control sits oddly to this day. I share my story because we are now in a post-Roe climate where patient autonomy, needs, and consent are often secondary to blanketed thought.

Thirty-eight percent of American women face one or more chronic illnesses. The symptomatic nuance chronic illness places on childbearing years will never see the inside of a courtroom because justices are not qualified physicians. These blanket bans by the states will never know how to regulate exceptions, acknowledge women as whole patients, or address their patient outcomes. Now that the Supreme Court has asserted that all uterus-bearing patients no longer have the right to privacy, there is no longer a threshold or standard for patient care independent of a state’s belief systems. Risk assessments are no longer the choice of just the patient, depending on your location.

Where does this leave an already complicated relationship between physicians, their patients, and the conditions they’ve vowed to treat?

Getty image by FG Trade.

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