The decision to abort affects reproductive health – The Morning Call


Something important gets lost in the conversation around the recent Supreme Court decision on abortion: its impact on reproductive health due to the risks inherent in every pregnancy.

Prior to my appointment as Pennsylvania’s Acting Secretary of Health and Surgeon General, I spent decades as a board-certified OB-GYN physician caring for people, including during their pregnancies. Although it is not talked about often enough, no pregnancy is without risk of a negative outcome or even death.

The death rate for people who give birth during pregnancy, childbirth, or shortly after childbirth is high and rising in Pennsylvania and Across the country. Therefore, all people who could become pregnant should have access to a full range of reproductive health care services and the right to decide what is right for them individually. This includes the right to an abortion, which is statistically a much safer procedure than childbirth itself.

In Pennsylvania, the overall maternal mortality rate is 82 deaths per 100,000 live births.

For people of color, who are already disproportionately affected by poverty and have less access to adequate health care, the mortality rate is 163 per 100,000 live births. This disparity is another concern, and we know it would be exacerbated by banning abortions.

For example, black people do not have significantly higher prevalence rates of pregnancy complications such as preeclampsia or postpartum hemorrhage than their white counterparts. However, blacks with these conditions were found to be 2-3 times more likely to die from them than whites. Not allowing black people who are at risk for these conditions access to abortion can lead to more deaths. Forcing people to have unwanted pregnancies against their will can only compound these risks.

For every person who dies of pregnancy, many more are affected, physically, emotionally and/or mentally. Everyone’s experience is different, and even long-awaited pregnancies can lead to health issues and agonizing decisions. When reproductive health services are restricted, there are unintended consequences for those who experience pregnancy loss.

To those who argue that miscarriage care will not be affected by the abortion ban, I say there is a lack of understanding of the continuum of care during pregnancy. Health care providers may be reluctant to provide care for fear of breaking the law, even in situations where abortion is the best medical practice.

We’ve seen this before in states that have bans in place, such as a case reported to the Texas Medical Board alleging that a hospital repeatedly told a doctor not to treat an ectopic pregnancy until it ruptured. Any delay in treatment in these cases represents an increased risk of mortality and long-term disability for the pregnant person, in addition to unnecessary suffering that may be experienced by the patient. We must respect that an individual and the physician who knows them are best equipped to determine what medical care is needed in each situation.

As a physician for over 25 years caring for pregnant women, it is very important to me that they have access to the full range of reproductive health care services. Many people don’t realize that the term “abortion” covers a wide variety of procedures in countless circumstances.

Whether it’s saving someone from an ectopic pregnancy that will never be viable, helping deliver a miscarriage, or prescribing medication to end a pregnancy for someone during in the first trimester for whom pregnancy is not a safe option, it all falls under the same medical terminology. of “abortion”. There are many reasons why people need abortions as a health care option.

That’s why reproductive health services, including abortions, remain legal, safe, and available in Pennsylvania. In our society, we value the right to self-determination and individual freedoms. In the case of a pregnant person, her rights should not be taken away because she is pregnant.

It is in the interest of all birthers that, as a Certified OB-GYN, I strongly advocate the preservation of the human right to bodily autonomy. Everyone should be afforded the dignity to make their own informed choices about their own health care needs.

Dr. Denise A. Johnson is the acting Secretary of Health and Surgeon General of Pennsylvania.


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