Sarah Markey, The Woman Project co-creator met with OBGYN and Pro-Choice advocate, Dr. Pablo Rodriguez recently. They discussed the his work and opinions around the Pro-Choice debate.
What led you into medicine and specifically your work as an OBGYN?
I was going to be an actor but I could not deal with the rejection that accompanies the profession. I’ve always loved science and interacting with people, which pointed me to medicine as a good fall back plan. Medicine is the ultimate stage where instead of one performance a day and matinee on Sunday, we providers have to please an audience of one, many times a day. My intention was to become a general surgeon, but after my first week on the surgical rotation in medical school I realized I was not compatible with the surgeons mentality of a single interaction with patients around a single procedure. Once I rotated through the ObGyn Department and was able to deliver babies, do surgery and engage in lifelong relationships with women, I knew I had found my audience.
What’s changed in reproductive healthcare over the span of your career?
I feel that there was a greater sense of activism around reproductive health issues when providers were being assaulted and clinics invaded by Operation Rescue and other anti-choice groups. We have come accustomed to seeing horrible pictures in front of the clinic and the community at large is no longer shocked. Younger people no longer have a direct connection to illegal abortion and sometimes seem unaware of the risks to their right to control their reproduction. Abortion is no longer on the top of political concerns and restrictive laws are being promulgated every year. I would want to see this issue score higher in the consciousness of our community
Do you see issues with women accessing safe abortions? If so, what are some of those specific issues?
There have been a myriad of laws passed in the last 10 years that have systematically curtailed the rights of many women in this country. From mandatory consent and waiting periods, to forceful ultrasounds and state mandated counseling involving clearly false and scientifically inaccurate information. Most recently the Supreme Court authorized the practice of employers exercising conscience clauses that in effect remove coverage for contraception and abortion, sometime Medicaid has done for over 30 years. Clinics are being subjected to inordinate regulations and laws that have driven many out of business and in some states it has become geographically impossible for women to be cared for. Outside of the US, our country has re-issued the Mexico City Policy which bans any recipient of USAID assistance from referring, counseling or advocating for abortion in their own countries and with their own money. This has not only reduced access to abortion, in some countries it has reduced funding for life saving maternal child health programs including vaccinations and family planning. By pursuing a so called “pro-life” position, our government has increased the number of abortions and have jeopardized the health of mothers and children all over the world.
What do you think it will take to win reproductive health care legislation here in RI?
It will take a wholesale change in the complexion, gender and age of the elected officials in the legislature. Progressive candidates need to be recruited and elected to change reproductive health in RI.
You’ve been involved in the fight for reproductive rights in RI for over 30 years, what are some of the lessons you want to share with our activists?
No battle is too big nor too small. Follow your principles and fight for what you believe is right. All rivers begin with one drop and only by identifying and activating many drops will justice run like rivers. Social media is a new and exciting tool to mobilize and arm advocates with information and facts that could help sway public opinion. Your voice will not be heard every time but it does not have to. If one person induces one or more to action, then we create a chain that can only grow in size and strength.
What inspires you to continue advocating for reproductive rights?
There is no choice