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Published by the Freedom From Religion Foundation, Inc.

9th place — Grad student essay contest: Sara Vargo 

Sara Vargo

FFRF awarded Sara $400.

By Sara Vargo 

The reproductive justice movement is a cause that I hold very close to my heart. As a clinic escort at the Planned Parenthood in my college town, I’ve witnessed firsthand the barriers that religion imposes on safe and secure access to essential health care. My role involved walking patients to and from the clinic entrance while they suffered verbal assault and manipulation tactics employed by the anti-choice protesters who spend each morning in the clinic parking lot. These protesters are almost exclusively motivated by religious teachings and believe that their “activism” is imperative to save the souls of the patients I serve. They direct threatening and hateful comments, misinformed by their religious beliefs toward every patient who enters and exits the clinic. Some patients ignore them, some stop to listen, and some retaliate with choice words of their own. I’ve met patients who drove for hours, across state lines, to receive abortion care at Planned Parenthood, only to be greeted with animosity in their most vulnerable moments. 

Since the Roe v. Wade decision was overturned, it is quite obvious that this deplorable affliction has become systemically commonplace throughout the country. It is incredibly frustrating to me, and to many of my likeminded counterparts, that the religious beliefs of some are translated into policy decisions that affect all people in this nation of supposed religious freedom. Without access to proper health care, including abortion care, people suffer and die. This is a fact that is perpetually supported by scientific inquiry into health outcomes and the examination of adverse case studies. 

When abortion was banned in Romania in the 1960s, maternal mortality doubled, while birth rates remained generally unchanged, as desperate women turned to unsafe methods to terminate pregnancies. It strikes me as purely evil that protesters, government officials and legislators continue to support placing restrictions on essential reproductive health care when the outcomes are this painfully clear, justified by what their personal religion has deemed acceptable. 

Rather than imposing one’s own religion on believers and nonbelievers alike, I am an avid supporter of using science and humanity to inform the policy decisions that govern our nation. I believe that taking advantage of the truths that scientific investigation reveals to us regarding the wellness of our fellow human beings is the singular best way to approach issues in health care, including access to reproductive services. With the knowledge we have of the great risks to women’s health that result from restricting abortion access, ensuring this access for all people is the sensible and imperative solution to the problem of high maternal mortality and widespread reproductive injustice. Action items in this area include codifying the right to safe abortion care for anyone who desires to terminate a pregnancy, expanding sources of this care to make it easily accessible in every corner of the country, and taking steps to prevent others from inciting shame and fear in those who exercise their right to receive an abortion. 

These concepts apply more generally, as well, both within the field of health care and outside of it. As science has time and time again proven the benefits of health care access and the dangers of a lack thereof, the protection and expansion of access to quality health care for all people is the answer if comprehensive health and well-being is our goal. This can be boiled down to apply to nearly any societal problem that we face: Use evidence-based reasoning to find solutions that benefit humanity as a whole and take action to implement these solutions as quickly and as vastly as possible. Although religion currently serves as a significant barrier to this method of problem-solving, it is my most sincere hope that generations to come will move away from religious allegiance in favor of promoting good health and total well-being for all of the world’s inhabitants.

Sara, 22, attends the University of California-San Francisco and is in the first year of medical school. Sara recently graduated with a degree in cellular and molecular biology from the University of Michigan. 

“I’m an active volunteer and advocate in reproductive justice work, having volunteered as a birth doula and Planned Parenthood clinic escort throughout my undergraduate education,” Sara writes. “I’m eager to explore the medical field, including women’s health, and hope to enjoy a career in maternal-fetal medicine to care for families experiencing high-risk pregnancies.”