Lawsuits in Idaho, Tennessee, and Oklahoma highlight significant gaps in the medical care of pregnant women where restrictive state abortion bans may limit treatment for a pregnancy complications, as practitioners are fearful of violating the law. Yet we know that medicine is not a perfect science. It can be impossible to identify the exact time when a patient’s condition shifts from stable to life-threatening, at which time, an abortion might then be legal. One need only review cases presented during morbidity and mortality rounds to know that physicians can’t reliably make those predictions. As one plaintiff stated, “It’s not safe to be pregnant in Oklahoma.” These cases reinforce the fact that the question of whether an abortion should or should not be performed is not just a religious, political, or ideological question. It is a medical question.
“As a physician practicing in Tennessee, I have witnessed the immense stress my colleagues have been burdened with, trying to care for their pregnant patients while ensuring they are not breaking the law. It’s a difficult position to be placed in, to know the correct treatment for your patient but to be unable to provide evidence based, compassionate healthcare to someone having a pregnancy complication. I applaud the bravery of the physicians and patients bringing light to the heartbreaking situations they have faced and I will continue to advocate for comprehensive reproductive healthcare access in every state.” – Katrina Green, MD, Co-chair of the AMWA advocacy committee.
AMWA President, Elizabeth Garner, MD, MPH concurred. “These cases highlight the challenges that physicians face when trying to navigate the complexities of patient care within constraints of these laws, often having to make decisions that are not the standard of care and risking charges of malpractice in order to comply with the law.”
AMWA and Doctors for America have co-founded a Reproductive Health Coalition that advocates with a unified voice to protect access to the full spectrum of reproductive care.