Supporting AYA Cancer Patients Impacted by the Overturn of Roe vs. Wade
Effects of Roe v. Wade Overturn on AYA Cancer Patients
Here at b-present, we boldly and proudly support our adolescent and young adult (AYA) cancer community. We are committed to ensuring the survivors we work with feel seen, heard and less alone, and have access to the support and resources they need to navigate their experience –on their own terms– during treatment and beyond. The Roe v. Wade decision has created new challenges within the community that we are only beginning to understand. It has challenged organizations to take a hard look at their mission and values to navigate the messy, sometimes uncomfortable, conflicted, emotional discussions to decide where they stand, often in the face of their own personal beliefs. We respect one another at b-present, hold space to listen and feel heard, and are proud of our commitment to the AYA cancer community.
To the AYA cancer community that is hurting right now in the wake of the Roe v. Wade decision, we stand with you. We will continue to advocate for you through education and information that creates awareness, empathy, and advocacy within your own support network for the new and difficult challenges you face as a result of this ruling. This is our first step in offering that support.
For supporters who may be unaware of how this decision may affect loved ones with cancer, we’re here to educate and support you, too. Being a good supporter does not require you to change your beliefs or who you are. Providing support does entail listening to understand what your loved one is going through, and standing with them so they are not alone during this difficult time. Some AYA cancer patients and survivors will need your support now more than ever, so here’s what you need to know:
As noted by the National Coalition for Cancer Survivorship (NCCS), “access to quality care begins with open and candid communication between patients and physicians about the patient’s diagnosis, underlying health status, comorbidities, goals of treatment, and medically appropriate, evidence-based treatment options. For some cancer patients, doctor-patient communication and shared decision-making will include consideration of pregnancy, fertility, and abortion. The overruling of Roe v. Wade and actions by the states after the decision will limit access to appropriate care and stifle open communication between health professionals and cancer patients that supports patient-centered decision-making and care.”
Being diagnosed with cancer while pregnant is so many people’s worst nightmare, and according to the American Cancer Society, this nightmare occurs in “up to 1 in 1,000 pregnant women each year.” In considering which medical approach to take for cancer treatment, pregnant patients and their healthcare professionals must additionally weigh the risk of treatment on fetal development if the pregnancy is continued.
While there are treatment regimens for some cancers that are possible during pregnancy, there are other treatments that are either not safe during pregnancy (such as chemotherapy during the first trimester and radiation), or there isn’t enough data to attest to their safety during pregnancy. This can leave some pregnant patients with heart-wrenching decisions to make: terminate the pregnancy that was likely wanted or delay cancer treatment at the risk of their cancer growing, spreading, or becoming untreatable. Now, in many states, patients are losing the ability to have these conversations and decisions with their healthcare providers—forced to prioritize a pregnancy over timely and evidence-based care to improve their cancer treatment outcomes.
While most people won’t actively try to get pregnant during cancer treatment, accidents happen, and pregnancies can occur. These patients may now be forced to adjust or dangerously delay their cancer treatments. Additionally, there are concerns among the medical community about the implications of the overturn of Roe v. Wade on the use of medications that can cause birth defects when terminating affected pregnancies is no longer an option. There have already been reports of individuals capable of becoming pregnant facing barriers to receiving their methotrexate prescription, which can treat numerous diseases and certain cancers.
Fertility Preservation & Family Planning
It’s no secret that cancer can steal a person’s fertility, but did you know that it can be difficult for cancer patients and survivors to adopt children? Some adoption agencies require the patient to be in remission for five years and to provide a recommendation from their oncologist that they are not at high risk of recurrence in order to even be considered as an adoptive parent, and even then, people have reported it can still be incredibly difficult to get approved. That leaves fertility preservation and IVF as the only option for many cancer survivors to start a family.
But if states define life as the point of conception, IVF and fertility preservation could be considered illegal. These procedures require the physician to discard unviable or extra embryos that they’ve collected in this process, which could be considered a termination of life in states where life legally begins at fertilization. This decision could drastically impact cancer survivors struggling with infertility who wish to have children.
How to Support
Be present for your loved ones who are currently affected by the overturn of Roe v. Wade. Actively listen to what they’re going through, what pain and grief they may be feeling, and hold their hand through it. Don’t try to provide solutions unless they ask for them; just listen and affirm that yes, this really does suck, and their feelings are completely valid.
If you are interested in learning more, we encourage you to seek authoritative resources to better understand the health care implications and real stories within the AYA cancer community. Read about the impact of state policies, the compiled list of responses from U.S. cancer centers, advocacy groups, professional societies, and medical journals, and the position of AYA cancer advocacy organizations have taken concerning the impact of the Roe v. Wade decision on the young adult’s ability to navigate cancer treatment and survivorship on their terms.
For free, phone-based counseling to offer compassionate, unbiased, nondiscriminatory support, including faith-based non-abortion support: All-Options
If you or the person you’re supporting are seeking information on where to access a legal abortion, this site helps you find a clinic and does not save user data: INeedAnA.com.
To learn more about how to identify regulated, licensed, and credentialed facilities to support safe family planning: Healthline
For a free, confidential helpline where you can get legal information regarding abortion access: ReproLegalHelpline.org
For financial and logistical needs regarding abortion access: National Network of Abortion Funds
To join advocacy efforts to improve abortion access: Bans Off Our Bodies
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