To Protect Reproductive Health, It Takes a Village

Sydney Cardozo is a third-year medical student at the UVM Larner College of Medicine.

In the following blog post, Cardozo writes about her advocacy efforts to protect patients’ rights to make their own reproductive decisions in Vermont and the U.S.

L-R: Senator Amy Klobuchar, Sydney Cardozo, Senator-elect Peter Welch

“It is easy to feel discouraged, but when challenges arise it is important to remember we are not alone. Elevate the voices of those around you and always have your teammates’ back. Because it really does take a village.”

The expression “it takes a village” is corny. Yet, it is the phrase I always come back to when challenges arise. Rarely do we do anything truly alone. In medicine especially, we rely on a team of different individuals working together to treat patients successfully.  I have been on teams my entire life starting with peewee soccer as a five-year-old child, all the way to D1 women’s lacrosse, and I did not expect medical school to be any different. Here too, there are highly motivated individuals working together toward common goals. 

Tunnel Vision

Back in September 2021, in the depths of cardiac pathophysiology and pharmacology, I found myself having a bit of tunnel vision focusing on the first exam of Cardiovascular, Respiratory, and Renal Systems. I had been blocking out the news until I received an email communication with the subject header “Reproductive Justice.” Hyperfocused on understanding sodium channels, I had neglected the world around me. There had been rumblings about the Supreme Court going after Roe v. Wade, and numerous politicians proposing restrictive policies against transgender children, but I now realized that there were local events impacting reproductive rights.

Immediately I felt guilty for not remembering to check in more often. I felt complacent because of my comfort in Vermont as a straight white woman. But most of all, I felt like a bad teammate. I was stuck between the panic of inaction and the chaos of indecisiveness. What could I really do as a second year medical student? The answer was, nothing alone. 

Time for Advocacy

A number of fellow students and I became engaged in advocacy activities. We met with medical school leadership to discuss anti-abortion related issues and local providers who connected us with state representatives. Student leaders of the group Medical Students for Choice led advocacy training and phone banking initiatives to support the passage of Vermont’s Reproductive Liberty Amendment, Article 22. We were introduced to Senator-elect Welch’s campaign manager, which led to roundtable discussions with community leaders and ultimately Senator Amy Klobuchar of Minnesota.

The reality of the reversal of Roe v. Wade and increasing restrictions on reproductive liberties,  will continue to disproportionately affect the most vulnerable in our society.  Decisions in Washington, D.C. will impact people of color and gender minorities, people of low economic means, as well as my peers and future colleagues. Graduate medical training, medical student education, and resident health and wellbeing are inherently intertwined with the concept of personal and patient autonomy, and these restrictive policies infringe upon that core tenet of medical ethics. 

We All Need Teammates

During the roundtable discussion with Senator Klobuchar, she emphasized the importance of showing up to vote. Even though she represents the state of Minnesota, she depends on other states, like Vermont, to stand with her in Congress to push through legislation regarding reproductive liberty, climate action, veteran affairs, and criminal justice. Like any great leader, she still needs her teammates.  

Abortion rights and reproductive justice are unfortunately no longer guaranteed in this country. It is easy to feel discouraged, but when challenges arise it is important to remember we are not alone. Elevate the voices of those around you and always have your teammates’ back. Because it really does take a village.