How OB-GYNs are 'at the forefront' of the fight for abortion rights
The demise of Roe v. Wade, according to abortion rights activists, is not only problematic for women experiencing unplanned pregnancies or seeking abortions — it is also a huge problem for pregnant women in red states. OB-GYNs are seriously worried about the legal risks they could face as those states move ahead with new anti-abortion laws and abortion restrictions.
Some abortion rights activists have been saying that, from a legal standpoint, it could be much safer for OB-GYNs to practice in a deep blue state like Massachusetts or California than in a deep red state such as Louisiana, Alabama or Mississippi.
OB-GYNs, historically, haven’t been known for being especially political. But in an article published by Politico on August 22, journalists Alice Miranda Ollstein and Megan Messerly take a look at some of the ways in which OB-GYNs have been speaking out in post-Roe America.
“Red state lawmakers rushing to pass new abortion restrictions are being stymied by an unexpected political force: OB-GYNs,” Ollstein and Messerly report. “These physicians — many of whom have never before mobilized politically — are banding together in the wake of the Supreme Court overturning Roe v. Wade, lobbying state lawmakers, testifying before committees, forming PACs, and launching online campaigns against proposed abortion restrictions. Legislators who are themselves physicians are using their medical backgrounds to persuade colleagues to scale back some of the more restrictive and punitive portions of anti-abortion laws being considered.”The Politico reporters go on to cite specific examples of OB-GYNs speaking out about abortion-related bills in their states.
“In Nebraska, OB-GYNs’ advocacy scuttled attempts to pass abortion restrictions in a summer special session, and the Republican-controlled legislature has punted the issue until early next year,” according to Ollstein and Messerly. “In West Virginia and Indiana, doctors secured smaller wins, stripping provisions out of bills that would have imposed harsher criminal penalties on physicians and patients, and ensuring exemptions for cases of rape, incest and threats to the health of the pregnant person…. The new groups’ early successes in some of the nation’s most conservative states signal the power they hope to wield in the coming months — raising money for abortion-rights candidates in the midterms and lobbying lawmakers in state capitals when new sessions convene next year — as well as in years to come.”
According to Ollstein and Messerly, OBGYNs are also, post-Roe, “at the forefront of legal battles over abortion access, taking the witness stand in Michigan and submitting briefs to courts in Idaho and Texas this week about how restrictions could harm their patients.
“As lawmakers debate how much to restrict the procedure — including in South Carolina, where the House later this month is expected to take up a bill banning abortion in all cases except to prevent death or serious bodily impairment — doctors are becoming increasingly vocal,” Ollstein and Messerly observe. “They argue the laws will have devastating consequences, drive physicians out of the state, worsen existing OB-GYN shortages and strain the medical system.”
READ MORE: The post-Roe dynamics of abortion: report
According to Democratic Nebraska State Sen. Adam Morfeld, this amount of political participation by OBGYNs is unprecedented.
Morefeld told Politico, “In my eight years in the legislature, I have never seen medical providers organize themselves in the way they did for this. They came together in the past for Medicaid expansion and other things, but that was mainly through existing associations and professional lobbies. Those are powerful, too, but not as powerful as hearing directly from individual doctors who have to make life-and-death decisions every day.”
According to Anne Banfield — an OB-GYN who practiced in a rural area of West Virginia in the past — OBGYN shortages have been a problem in rural countries, and new abortion laws could make those shortages even worse.
Banfield told Politico, “Not only are we going to say we want you to come to this tiny rural town, but we’re also going to say, maybe you can and maybe you can’t practice the full scope of your specialty, and maybe you’ll get arrested for trying to provide appropriate care to your patients. That’s a really hard mountain to climb.”
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