AUSTIN. Texas — Texas physicians today warned that the state’s Draconian law banning abortions as early as six week threatens the medical care they provide to people who can get pregnant, potentially even endangering lives. The physicians spoke days before the U.S. Supreme Court is scheduled to begin hearing challenges to Texas’ Senate Bill 8 on Monday. Dr. Harold Miller, a retired OB/GYN in Houston, shared a story about a patient he’d seen after she got an unsafe abortion before Roe v Wade, when abortion was illegal in Texas.
“As an OB-GYN, one of the most heartbreaking moments of my professional career was when I was requested to see a patient who was admitted to the hospital on a Wednesday, with high spiking temperatures, who had been seen by multiple specialists to determine the cause of her infection. I visited her, and as I walked in the room and mentioned to her that I was a gynecologist, I saw tears come down her cheeks. I immediately knew what the diagnosis was. I took her to surgery and had to remove all of her female organs — they were mush. She died on Saturday. I cried. I was disappointed that my training prevented me from saving this woman’s life.”
Dr. Miller continued: “Dangerous laws like Texas’ Senate Bill 8 will only lead to more unsafe abortions — the kind of unsafe, risky abortions that killed my patient nearly 50 years ago and will likely kill many more in the future.”
The U.S. Supreme Court is allowing the Texas ban against abortions to stay in effect as it hears arguments in two cases, Whole Woman’s Health v. Jackson, and United States v. Texas. SB 8 bans abortions as soon as embryonic cardiac activity is detected, typically around six weeks and well before viability. SB 8 also punishes anyone who provides an abortion or who helps someone get an abortion, including individuals who drive a patient to a procedure. Virtually no exceptions are allowed under SB 8, which contains a law enforcement provision that deputizes anyone to sue people who violate the law.
Unsafe abortions can lead to infections, heavy bleeding, damage to internal organs and other harmful effects. In 2014, at least 22,800 women died from unsafe abortions. People who survive unsafe abortions are at risk of suffering long term health complications.
“Abortion care is health care, and is the purview or medical professionals and patients — not politicians,” said Dr. Nancy Binford, an OB-GYN in Austin. “The issues at stake here are body autonomy and the sanctity of the doctor/patient relationship. That privacy is at risk with this law. I hope the Supreme Court’s decision will fall on the side of the health and well being of my patients, and all citizens, who for their private and personal health care reasons, are forced to make the decision to terminate a pregnancy.”
Research shows that abortion bans can be misguided and harm people in vulnerable positions, without reducing the rate of abortions. Data also shows that abortion rates are roughly the same in countries where abortion is broadly legal and in countries where it isn’t, with abortion rates four times higher in low-income countries where abortion is prohibited than in high-income countries where it is broadly legal.
“Individuals consider abortion for a whole range of reasons that ordinary Texans experience every day: Pregnancy complications, a physical or mental health condition, or the decision that now is not the time to be pregnant,” said Dr. Jane Stafford, a retired OB/GYN in Kerrville. “As physicians, we know and understand that these reasons can sometimes carry life-and-death consequences for our patients. Continuing a pregnancy after a fetus is diagnosed with certain medical conditions also carries health risks to the mother. Forcing people with chronic illnesses to carry a pregnancy against their will, as SB 8 will do, could have life-threatening consequences. For Black people who already face worse health disparities and significantly higher maternal mortality rates, forcing them to carry pregnancies against their will or against the medical advice of their doctors will have devastating consequences.”
About the Committee to Protect Health Care
The Committee to Protect Health Care, formerly known as the Committee to Protect Medicare, is a national mobilization of doctors, health care professionals, and advocates who are building a pro-patient health care majority in Congress and in states so that we can live in an America where everyone has the health care they need to thrive. To learn more: www.committeetoprotect.org