Kentucky. What do we know about Kentucky? We know that it is in the South, home to the famous Kentucky Derby, and that it is commonly known as the Bluegrass State. Another fun fact about Kentucky is that it only has one abortion clinic in the entire state.
Access to comprehensive healthcare for women and adolescent females in Kentucky is beyond limited. It is almost non-existent. In a part of the country where conservative and old-fashioned viewpoints seem to have deep roots, many youngsters are only getting abstinence only sex education in schools. Teen pregnancy in the United States is the highest among developed nations, Kentucky is a leading contributor. But it doesn’t stop there. Teen pregnancy is not the only challenge Kentucky women are facing. The lack of openness about discussing health matter leaves some women with untreated STIs leading to infertility, increased shame after sexual assault, and a firm lack of empowerment in regards to their personal health.
A recent CNN article highlights the struggles that Kentucky women are facing when is comes to education, contraception, and abortion access. Governor Matt Bevin of Kentucky is of the same mind as our esteemed president when it comes to slashing away women’s rights. After Trump has made moves to halt Affordable Care Act’s contraceptive coverage requirement, and is working to put in place budget cuts that are only going to directly effect teen pregnancy prevention programs, Bevin is trying to outlaw the only abortion clinic left standing in the Bluegrass state.
Instead of rolling over and letting the patriarchy go on unopposed, the women of Kentucky are racing to create programs that will better their lives. In the small town of Whitesburg, women are gathering to launch a campaign to start a comprehensive birth control access program in Southeastern Kentucky. The women here tell stories of classmates who became pregnant before the age of 14, and how it is often easier to get opioids than contraceptives.
CNN reports how Stacie Sexton, a Kentucky woman who had an abortion at 20 years old so that she could continue college, used her unpleasant experience with healthcare providers to start a program in Louisville that aims to erase the abortion stigma. Abortion Monologues provides a space on stage for women and men to share their experiences. The hope is that this will at the very least open the doors for a new type of conversation.
Kentucky is about to have a whole new level of fame. If the government is successful in eliminating the last standing abortion clinic, they will be the first state in the US to completely ban abortion since 1973. A significant women’s right roll-back if you will. How big of an impact would this have on the women of Kentucky? The truth is that with already only one clinic being available, and that clinic being located in Louisville, the women of the East basically have zero access already. What our leading men of the world do not seem to understand is that not everyone can hop in a car that they don’t have, drive hours away to across the state or to another one all together, and pay for the lodging and procedure. That is not a realistic option for many.
It is one thing to be pro-life for your own personal moral reasons. When the Governor of a state simultaneously seeks to ban abortion, prevent access to comprehensive contraception, and implement abstinence only programs in schools, the explanation is not “abortion is wrong.” The only explanation for this is that this is a sexist, misogynistic, man seeking to rip away the rights that women have worked so hard to get. We haven’t even hit our 100-year anniversary of having the right to vote. What makes these political developments so scary is how quickly strides we have made in our history could be wiped away. While we may not live in Kentucky, women’s rights, particularly those revolving around healthcare are being threatened in every state. We can support the women of Kentucky and other states by raising awareness on how to get involved with changing legislation and creating more resources for women. As women and women’s healthcare providers, we have a responsibility to stand together and support each other. Just because it isn’t happening in your house doesn’t mean it’s not in your front yard getting ready to knock on the door.