Health Service experts talk reproductive issues

Senior Director of Health and Wellness Service Michelle Bowdler and nurse practitioner Ariel Watriss discussed reproductive justice with students at the Women’s Center last Friday.

Bowdler, who has worked at Tufts for 15 years, has a background in public health and has worked in fields concerning addiction, HIV education, violence prevention and community based health care, according to the Tufts Health Service website. 

Watriss said she recently began her first semester as a nurse practitioner at Health Service.

Bowdler expressed her interest in getting to know students’ political and personal opinions about reproductive justice issues. 

The discussion began with questions about a law concerning abortion restrictions in Texas that was overturned last week. Bowdler commented that she believes abortion rights will be difficult to win in many states, adding that advertising and political campaigns may make public opinions about the issue seem different than they are. 

“I’m of an age where I remember when people were fighting about abortion rights thirty years ago when I was in college, and they would say that a huge majority of people in the country believe in women’s right to choose but that the money that was going towards this issue was largely insufficient,” Bowdler said. “So when you look at what the debate was, because of where the advertising was and who was winning political office, it felt like as many people were against the abortion rights as were for it. But if you ask people, this wasn’t the case.”

Watriss said she was confused and angry about the limited progress in gaining abortion rights and  that many of the arguments and problems surrounding abortion are the same as they were many years ago. 

“I don’t feel like it’s a hard issue,” she said. “To me, it’s very clear what should be happening.”

Watriss explained that getting funding for abortion could be difficult and does not expect all issues surrounding abortion to disappear quickly. 

Another student suggested the topic of pregnancy centers and birth control. One change that Bowdler said she has noticed over the last ten years is that it is currently much easier to get birth control pills than in the past. 

“It was expensive, and I’ve watched that change over the years,” Bowdler said. “It’s just that there have been a lot of health care reforms, and I think some of the ways in which we think about how we get more access to preventing pregnancy has been part of the discussions.”

Watriss believes that educators and activists need to show people why they need access to abortion. There have already been many benefits of increased access to birth control and to comprehensive sex education, she said.

Other students asked about the process for getting emergency contraception (EC) at Tufts. 

Bowdler explained that EC treatment costs about $15 but that students who receive a prescription from their doctor can get it for free. She explained that though Health Service employees will ask questions to students who request EC, these questions are meant to check for consent and not to prevent students from getting the medication. 

“We don’t ask questions like, ‘If you answer this wrong you are not getting the emergency contraception,'” Bowdler said. “It’s more that the clinicians are trying to help figure out if we need to ask a whole bunch of other questions and whether you may need an exam and whether you are okay and how we can help.”