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On Dobbs anniversary, abortion rights advocates in Kentucky urge renewed focus on the fallout

Josh James

The two-year anniversary of the Dobbs decision overturning Roe v. Wade brought abortion rights advocates and medical professionals out for a new statewide push to spotlight the issue.

In Lexington, reproductive rights supporters addressed media outside the Stephen Courthouse — with some speakers emphasizing the chilling atmosphere they say Kentucky's strict abortion laws have created in medical circles.

A survey of Kentucky medical students showed a majority would consider receiving medical training out-of-state due to the commonwealth’s abortion laws.

"The future — it's their future. And there is no way that they should have to live where they can't have a choice."
Cyndi Wathen, abortion rights advocate, speaking about young women in her family

Shriya Dodwani, a second-year medical student of the University of Louisville, says her peers view the Dobbs decision reversing Roe v. Wade through a healthcare lens that isn’t political.

"The way medical students see it and medical providers see it is that this is hindering out ability to pursue the education that we came here for," she tells WUKY.

Dodwani says that feeling is borne out by recent poll results showing over 62% of medical school students would weigh out-of-state medical training because of Kentucky’s abortion regulations. The survey was small – with 272 responses over 10 days. Respondents were specifically asked whether they might seek out the out-of-state education because of “Kentucky’s restrictive abortion laws.”

But Dodwani noted the poll wasn’t limited to students considering jobs in women’s health.

"This is not specific to OB-GYN residents or people wanting to pursue OB-GYN, but as a whole," she added. "The numbers speak for themselves."

Those numbers come at a time when Kentucky, like other states, is grappling with a severe shortage of health care providers, with at all but seven of the state’s 120 counties designated as Health Professional Shortage Areas.

The national Health Resources and Services Administration reported that more than half of Kentucky’s 120 counties did not have a dedicated OB-GYN in 2020 and 2021.

Meanwhile, outside the state Capitol in Frankfort, a group rallied in support of reproductive rights.

Two years ago, when the U.S. Supreme Court handed down the landmark reversal, it sent the issue to lawmakers at the state level.

Monday, organizers with the National Organization of Women and the Women’s March have called for a national "Day of Action’" and urged women and girls to bow out of work and school in protest of the SCOTUS ruling.

Cyndi Wathen of La Grange did just that.

"Took off work," she says. "I have a daughter-in-laws. They are both pregnant right now and one of them is definitely having a girl. The future — it's their future. And there is no way that they should have to live where they can't have a choice. Their body, their choice."

Those who oppose the Dobbs decision are also being asked to only shop at businesses owned by women. According to a recent Gallup poll, 54% of Americans say they are pro-choice. Fourteen states currently enforce abortion bans at all stages of pregnancy with limited exceptions.

Advocates hope to harness the energy and attention surrounding the anniversary as a way to put the issue in front of voters — in some cases literally. The Kentucky campaign will include two mobile billboard trucks that will be visible in Frankfort, Lexington, and Bowling Green over the next several weeks.

Josh James fell in love with college radio at Western Kentucky University's student station, New Rock 92 (now Revolution 91.7). After working as a DJ and program director, he knew he wanted to come home to Lexington and try his hand in public radio.
Karyn Czar joined the WUKY News team July 1, 2013, but she's no stranger to radio.