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How the Roe v. Wade Reversal Affects Informed Choice for Other Treatments

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It’s essential we recognize the woman’s body as a whole, medical, human body. At conception, women may have autoimmune diseases, multiple sclerosis, cancer, depression, and a myriad of other physical and/or mental illnesses. The medications and treatment we receive as women, the choices we make about treatment based on what works, and personal beliefs belong to the patient and should remain a conversation between the doctor and the patient.

Women have only been involved in most medical studies since 1986, and women make up 80-90% of individuals with autoimmune disorders. It’s no surprise then that the medical community lacks a comprehensive understanding of autoimmunity. Other women in the chronic illness community and I speak for hours about the walls we hit when trying to get diagnosed, being called hysterical, a hypochondriac, and told, “it’s just stress.” Given the fact that women have a higher tolerance for pain on average than men, one would hope a woman would be heard when she voices pain.

A friend of mine with psoriatic arthritis had a rheumatologist who would not treat her with methotrexate until she had an IUD put in her uterus. For many autoimmune diseases, methotrexate is a first line of defense, and often an effective medication for combating arthritic symptoms. A fellow Mighty member wrote about her experience with a doctor in her story, What I Learned When a Doctor Put Her Bias About Medication Above My Needs, “ “What do you mean I have no other options? What about methotrexate?” She replied, “Eh, I don’t really like giving out that medication, because I had a 17-year-old girl who was on it and she got pregnant.”

I am thankful I was able to get methotrexate. My rheumatologist informed me that if I plan to have a child, I should discontinue methotrexate during the time I am pregnant. I have no plans for kids, so I take methotrexate. I have lupus and psoriatic arthritis, and no biologic has been effective at treating either. I choose to take methotrexate, Otezla, and chloroquine because these are the medications that give me the most relief with the least awful side effects.

We must understand that women’s bodies work as entire ecosystems — poorly-understood ecosystems. Thinking about our reproductive system as though it exists independent of the rest of a woman’s body leads to danger and harm. We see doctors already taking the liberty of making medical decisions for women based on the hypothetical that a woman could become pregnant, and entangling that hypothetical with the doctor’s personal views. Overturning Roe paves the way for a far deeper loss of medical choices, predictably in the chronic illness community. We must fight to ensure the care and treatment of women, and to enable continued research and respect for women’s bodies as medically important. This will lead to greater medical advancements as a whole, and will help protect the entire chronically ill community.

Getty image by Tanja Ivanova.

Originally published: July 2, 2022
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