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  • Writer's pictureJiya Mutyala

Interview with Dr. Shetal Vohra-Gupta About Laws Regulating Reproductive Rights

Dr. Vohra-Gupta is an assistant professor working at the University of Texas at Austin. To learn more about Dr. Shetal Vohra-Gupta, follow this link:

Q: Can you state your name, title, and place of work, please?

A: Yes. Shetal Vohra-Gupta, my title is an assistant professor at the University of Texas at Austin.

Q: What is your role at the University of Texas in Austin?

A: I am a researcher and a teacher.

Q: What is your area of work?

A: The department I am with is the School of Social Work.

Q: Can you tell me a bit about what research you have been involved in regarding reproductive rights in Texas and/or the U.S.?

A: So my most specific work with reproductive rights in Texas is evaluating their Healthy Texas Women program, when Texas decided to not expand Medicaid-meaning the national program that offers resources to low-income women-Texas decided that they weren’t gonna take on that program, and that they were going to create their own program called Healthy Texas Women. The intent of Healthy Texas Women was to provide healthcare, including reproductive care, to low-income women, and so I evaluated that program about two years and then three years in. And so that’s been my work with reproductive health in Texas there. And the findings are that it really has not helped low-income women at all.

Q: Can you talk a bit about how, in your experience, you’ve witnessed reproductive rights for women slowly chipping away in a state like Texas prior to the recent Supreme Court ruling on Roe v. Wade? And what have been the effects of trap laws in Texas?

A: Texas has been a hotspot when it comes to trying to take away rights for women, especially in the realm of reproductive healthcare. Texas legislature has passed laws that have really restricted reproductive health providers from being able to practice. And so they have these trap laws which keep providers from getting licensed to do this work. And these trap laws, what they do is that providers have to jump through these extra hoops in order to continue the care that they wanted to provide. And so they have to either get credentialed at a hospital or they have to get extra stuff with their license. That has just pretty much put providers out of working within the reproductive realm-basically providing abortions. So they’ve done that, they’ve also tried to strip away what was the timeline for when you can get an abortion. Now we don’t have Roe, but Roe at the time provided a certain timeline about when you can get an abortion. You know, before this week you can get an abortion, but after that, you need a lot of medical advice and you maybe can’t get it. And Texas has done what it can to strip away from those weeks to 6 weeks, or even less, so, yeah. And really quick, also a big piece of the trap laws is that because providers can’t then practice, it means that women don’t have access to reproductive health anywhere near them. So one of the studies I did said that women had to drive almost 100 miles to get any sort of care. And so it prevented women from having access to what really, at that time, was a right. Does that make sense?

Q: In your opinion, which women are most affected by Roe. V. Wade and what options do they have?

A: Low-income women of color are the ones that are most affected because they do not have the means, the money, or the resources to be able to fly or drive somewhere in order to get an abortion. If you are somebody who is wealthy and has access, you can get a plane ticket, you can get a car and drive across state-if you have access to that then you have access to abortion and other reproductive healthcare. Those who don't have access to that, which are mostly low-income, and then in Texas, women of color, you don’t have any chance of getting any sort of reproductive care or abortion care.

Q: Finally, for the last question, I’m 15 years old and have never lived in an America where abortion isn’t legal or as restricted as it is right now. What advice do you have for young girls and my generation? What can or should we do right now?

A: That’s a great question. One is don’t give up because one of the things that I have seen, and you probably have to, is that every generation of women right now that are alive are really angry about this situation. I think there are more of us than not that are angry about this. Even if you don’t personally believe in abortion for yourself, there are many, many generations of women that are like, even if it’s not for me, it’s still not a right that should be taken away from somebody else, you know? And so I think there are more women that believe that than not. So I would say don’t give up. The other thing I would say is to really take away the shame when it comes to talking about abortion. I think that for so long, there was so much shame revolving around abortion, and even saying it, even talking about it, that that led to the conservative wave being able to do what they’ve done. And so I say take away the stigma. Be talking about it as openly and freely as possible. And the other thing is that you know, the basic thing is to keep talking to your legislators, keep talking to your senators, keep pressuring them, and then whenever you get to an age where you can run for office, run for office! So these policies never have a chance of going backward or more backward, you know? And be politically involved in these issues. What else can you do? Get men on board. That’s another big thing, is that I feel like sometimes young men, or even older men, feel as though this is a women’s issue. No, it’s not. It affects them too. Get them on board, and have them advocate for this issue as much as women are. Does that make sense?

J: Yeah that makes sense. I completely agree with everything you have said. Thank you for this opportunity!

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