Post-Roe, rural women would face more obstacles; retired health director says the issue is about men, women, sex and control

Bertie Salyer

“Trigger laws” would make abortion in Kentucky and 12 other states illegal if Roe v. Wade is overturned. That would disproportionately affect rural women, who are more likely than their urban peers to be impoverished, less likely to have the time or money to drive long distances across state lines to obtain an abortion, and more likely to face stigma over the decision to end a pregnancy.

Abortion isn’t often publicly discussed in rural areas, but it is widely felt, as indicated by a recent note to University of Kentucky journalism professor Al Cross, editor and publisher of Kentucky Health News, by Bertie Salyer, retired health director in Magoffin County:
“As a former social worker, social work supervisor, college professor, and health department director, I feel very distraught. Old white Republican men telling all females of childbearing age that they better not have sex unless they can see themselves nine months away successfully having and supporting a family of at least two. Punish the woman, don’t allow her to have sex education in school, don’t give her birth control, don’t give her health care, don’t give her support or any services while pregnant and after birth; just tell her to only have sex for procreation because SHE alone is responsible. Her body must bear the consequences, the lifetime consequences of that weak moment, that rape, that incestuous attack, that failure to think ahead in what could have been a moment of passion. She suffers the societal impact, the disruption of her life through what could have been a lapse in judgement, a mistake, crime victimization. HE can sexually enjoy the moment and move on without a thought. What is fair, equal, and just about that? And don’t allow me the space to discuss the possible outcomes for the child, and the additional social problems for our society.”
Many who oppose abortion rights are just as passionate, saying that all life is sacred and that it begins at conception. Though the topic has been a divisive political football for decades, public sentiment hasn’t changed much in the nearly 50 years since the Roe v. Wade ruling. “According to Gallup, 21 percent of Americans thought abortion should be illegal in all circumstances in 1975, compared with 19 percent in 2021,” Michael Scherer reports for The Washington Post. But in the 13 states with trigger laws, current sentiment is decidedly different: “43 percent of adults on average say abortion should be legal in most or all cases, while 52 percent say it should be illegal in most or all cases,” Nate Cohn reports for The New York Times.
A 2014 poll in Kentucky by the nonpartisan Pew Research Center found that 57% of Kentucky adults thought abortion should be illegal in all or most all cases, while 36% said it should be legal in all or almost all cases. More than 90% of abortions are performed in the first trimester of pregnancy.
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