I am 76. Recently at Logan airport, awaiting a long-awaited 14-hour flight to Japan, I was carried by ambulance to the ER at Mass General with sudden bleeding. Everyone was very kind; the hospital one of the best in the world; and my sister came to be with me and take me to her home to recuperate.

Back home in Maine, I immediately pursued the necessary medical follow-up – including a biopsy for possible cancer and surgery. My doctor prescribed a necessary drug to be taken before the operation. My pharmacist handed it over without incident and a friend who saw what it was said fervently: “Thank God you live in Maine!”

The drug? Misoprostol.

You may know it as one of the drugs, along with methotrexate, administered for more than 60% of the abortions in this country, drugs with a far lower mortality rate than penicillin or Viagra, according to the U.S. FDA. While it may be a sad joke to be taking it at my age, I am extremely grateful to have the option, and glad that my doctors and pharmacists are not in fear for their licenses, their freedom or even their lives for giving it to me.

Hundreds of thousands of women and their doctors in this country are now not so lucky: those who live in states with near bans on all abortions. The victims of anti-abortion zealotry extend not only to those who need an abortion in states like Texas and Idaho, a right constitutionally recognized for my entire adult life, but to those who need care for chronic auto-immune diseases, a biopsy for cancer, gastric ulcers, or one of many other reasons this drug might be prescribed. Women who have a miscarriage of a wanted pregnancy need it, as do women with any excessive bleeding after any delivery, as do women who are trying to bring a child into the world with in vitro fertilization.

The Kaiser Family Foundation warns of clinicians and pharmacists denying women access to these medications to manage their chronic conditions. Many pharmacies will no longer carry such drugs, even national chains. Pharmacists have denied or delayed filling such prescriptions and some providers are also requesting patients take a pregnancy test to confirm they are not pregnant. Kaiser’s analysis finds that the majority of those who use these drugs are women who are not pregnant but rely on these medications to manage their health.


Despite the thousands of women my age who may be prescribed misoprostol, it is overwhelmingly women of reproductive age with chronic conditions who are most impacted by being denied access. In many cases such delays and denials can be life-threatening.

Beyond these immediate consequences for banning abortion and medication abortion is the far more extensive damage being done because pregnant women and others like me who need cancer screening or other gynecological care now have to travel long distances at great expense for that care. Women’s health clinics are closing throughout the red states and beyond, and good doctors are being driven out of communities by frustration, fear and exhaustion. We are becoming a nation of women’s health care deserts. Of course it is the poor, as always, who are most affected.

Make no mistake, these zealots are after Maine’s laws too. Our governor stands with other governors in staunch support of preserving women’s freedoms and the medical care that we so recently took for granted.

This is no longer solely about the 10-year-old pregnant by incest or the hapless teenager with an unintended pregnancy – raped or not – as much as their health and futures deserve to be protected. This has the potential to affect the lives and health of every woman reading this and every woman you know at any age. Take it from me.

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