“Whenever someone says, ‘I don’t understand how someone could have an abortion,’ I like to tell them to flip their tone,” said Dr. Colleen Krajewski, a Pittsburgh-based abortion provider. 

“I tell them that like you said yourself, you don’t understand, you don’t know anything about the person or who they are or what they’ve been through and so listen to yourself and realize that by not being able to understand, you also don’t get to decide what people do with their own bodies.” 

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With the overturning of Roe v. Wade, many women are left wondering how it happened and what the future holds for their reproductive rights. Krajewski is speaking out to help educate women on abortion access and provide tips to ensure reproductive safety. Our questions and her answers, edited for brevity:

Why do you think abortion access has become such a politically divisive topic in the United States?

It’s a complex answer, but a lot of it has to do with stigma because it’s such a common procedure and most people know someone and love someone who has had an abortion even if they are not aware of it. When politicians discuss things like birth control and reproductive access, for them it is really about control. But I think what people need to realize is we need to start measuring our reproductive rights and freedoms in terms of access, not control.

When we start measuring our freedoms and rights by access, then we can look at things like how truly accessible birth control and medical visits are. 

Do you believe the overturning of Roe v. Wade will increase the rate of unsafe abortions? 

I think our trainees [medical students and residents] are going to start seeing a lot of different complications that we maybe haven’t seen with as much frequency. Complications due to abortions are extremely extremely rare, like basically almost none, and I think we are going to start seeing many complications with early pregnancy as a result of Roe v. Wade overturning that wouldn’t normally occur. My hope is that we’re able to get people the abortions that they need, regardless of where they live. The reality is you can’t prevent all abortions regardless of the laws that pass. In the past when abortions were illegal, women still chose to have abortions even when the process was dangerous for them. 

The only thing that will happen when lawmakers try to ban abortions is that they are banning safe abortions. Women have and will continue to have abortions because the truth is women don’t want to be forced into raising [a child] or giving birth, and they shouldn’t have to be forced to give birth if they don’t want to.

Portrait of Dr. Colleen Krajewski
Dr. Colleen Krajewski.

What would you suggest lawmakers, government officials or even healthcare systems do to alleviate the lack of abortion access? 

I definitely think passing proactive bills in states where abortions are still legal is a necessary start. I also think we need really robust plans in place to take care of the influx of patients from places where abortion is not legal and that needs to include everybody, not just doctors. We definitely don’t have enough doctors that do abortion care and any gynecologist can do an abortion.

Are you afraid to continue being an abortion provider after the overturning of Roe v. Wade?

I mean, sometimes I wonder if it’s my privilege speaking when I say that I don’t spend my life in fear. Maybe it’s because I don’t have kids or maybe it’s because of the color of my skin that I think I couldn’t possibly be hurt, and I reflect on that a lot. I really do try to have compassion for people who choose not to provide an abortion and choose not to use the skills that they have.

I think at the end of the day the fears they are putting in the media about healthcare providers possibly facing dangers and criminal charges and violence are scare tactics to try to get us to stop talking about our beliefs, and I am just not going to back down from this fight.

What would you tell women who are afraid of having their reproductive rights taken away?

Pennsylvania is lucky that abortions are still legal here, but I like to remind people that they still need to go and vote and keep voting to make sure abortions stay legal here. 

Some advice I have for women is to try to save up some money and keep it there in case something happens and you find yourself needing an abortion. Try to have enough money for the procedure and travel. And I know that it is hard for people to save up money and it is a privilege to be able to have like $500 in savings, but if you can save the money, do it.

But really we need to vote, vote in every election you can, and especially in the local ones, because as of now those are the elections that are going to determine your reproductive rights.

Have you treated individuals who identify themselves as pro-life and are seeking abortions? 

I had someone say to me once, “I don’t believe in abortion for rape, incest and my situation.” And my first thought is: Well what’s your situation right now? What do I need to know? She told me she was a mother and I said, ”OK, that must be hard, and you might find some peace that over half the women who seek abortions are mothers.” 

It became clear to me that it wasn’t going to help her get through her situation by feeling solidarity with other people that are in her situation and, you know, knowing that she’s not alone.

I think what people need to realize is that abortions are a common procedure. And whenever someone says, “I don’t understand how you could possibly have an abortion,” they should understand it’s very likely someone they know and are close to has had an abortion and that they should try to understand.

Punya Bhasin is a freelance journalist in Pittsburgh. She can be reached at punya13b@gmail.com.

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