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Opinion – removing abortion rights is fatal for diabetics

The moment you strip a diabetic of their choice to have an abortion is the moment you put their life in grave danger.

Last month, the US Supreme Court handed down a controversial judgment, effectively changing the course of history as we know it. It shook the ground under millions of women across the US and has generated waves of anger, fear, and despair across the world.

From those who are children of individuals forced to give birth, to those who have been sexually assaulted and will now be forced to bear children themselves, having an abortion is a personal choice that females in the US are no longer allowed to make.

A choice about their own bodies and a loss of choice that will be detrimental for their livelihoods no matter how you view it.

For people who have chronic conditions, such as diabetes, giving birth to an accidental child or one that was forced upon them won’t only affect their mental health, their financial situation, or the way society views them. Forcing a diabetic to give birth to a child they were not expecting – or ready for – is medically dangerous, and potentially fatal.

I was 21 when I was diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes and one of the very first questions I was asked in the hospital was whether I was planning on getting pregnant.

I will never forget the look of concern the nurse gave me as she awaited my response. I remember feeling taken aback and confused – I’d only just graduated from university very recently and the thought of having my own baby still felt so distant.

‘No, not right now anyway,’ I told her.

She let out a sigh of what seemed like relief, before she proceeded to warn me that to successfully conceive a child, even if that is 10 years from now, a lot of work must be done to manage my blood sugar levels.

That night, I did a quick Google of diabetes and pregnancy complications – like looking up medical symptoms, it’s not something I would recommend – and I realised that with my new diagnosis, the idea of having a baby was suddenly much, much further away.

I’m not your classic “baby person”. Unlike a lot of girls in my class, I didn’t play pretend-mum or have a baby dolly to bathe at bath time. But having a real, human baby is still something that I would have liked to have done eventually. Especially after I met my current partner.

Now, the thought of conceiving a child is not only distant, but it feels impossible, scary, and even more out of reach.

Don’t get me wrong, Type 1 diabetics can have children. I follow many parents on Instagram who are Type 1 themselves and often have Type 1 children too. All of them beautiful, all of them perfectly healthy. But I am sure that if you asked them what pregnancy was like, what giving birth was like, and even what being a mother as a Type 1 is like now – they wouldn’t say it’s all rainbows and butterflies.

Diabetics just have a lot more rules to follow than those without chronic conditions. Even as a young, active and single woman, with no children, pets, or even plants to look after, I find it hard to deal with the 24/7 job that is diabetes. And again, I am not dealing with the extra hormones that come with pregnancy, or the part of myself I’d have to give to childcare.

Before even considering the mountain of new things that diabetics need to consider with children, there are a number of risks that put them in serious medical danger if they weren’t expecting that child.

Diabetics are more at risk of having miscarriages or give birth to a larger baby, and the latter can elevate the risks of having a more difficult birth, or needing a caesarean section.

In more severe instances, when diabetics have had high blood sugar around the time of conception, they face risks of spontaneous abortions and major congenital malformations. According to some reports, mothers with diabetes are three times more likely to pass away from complications at birth than those without.

The problem with the US Supreme Court’s decision to overturn Roe v Wade is that millions of US-based Type 1 diabetics will no longer be able to even risk getting pregnant without following an extremely strict regime. Removing that option won’t just mean a stark rise in people with Type 1 diabetes because they will be passing on the gene, but a stark surge in maternal mortality too.

It frightens me that one law can destroy the lives of so many people and that such a controversial shift in human rights has been allowed to pass in 2022. But deep down I hope that girls and women like me will manage to get the help they need – whether that’s from an understanding doctor, or through foreign aid.

Either way, it is clear that if those who had voted to overturn Roe v Wade had even considered chronic conditions and other medical issues, we’d be living in a very different world.