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The Health of All Women

By Aliye Runyan
AMSA Education and Research Fellow

Do you know Roe v. Wade is currently under attack and the health of all women is at stake?

Cleverly disguised as "state-based regulation", seven states have passed or will soon pass devastating legislation affecting access to family planning, especially in rural and underserved areas. This impacts not only the women and families in those states, but taken collectively, is a serious and deliberate blow to national family planning services.

AMSA believes matters of reproductive health to be private and sensitive, and support the right of patients to make these decisions in confidence with their physician without the interference of any third party. In that spirit, we disagree with and discourage wholeheartedly the recent legislation affecting Ohio, Wisconsin, Texas, North Carolina, Virginia, Alabama, and Mississippi. These laws, sometimes "stuck in" along with other, completely unrelated legislation, do nothing more than prevent access to safe options for abortion. In cases of such legislation where clinics like Planned Parenthood are defunded, this not only prevents safe abortion options ( in those clinics which provide it) but also restrict and discourage access to family planning resources such as contraception and scientifically based sexual education, which in turn, reduce the need for abortion.

The way most of these bills decrease access is through TRAP laws. TRAP stands for Targeted Regulation of Abortion Providers. Six states have made it illegal for abortion clinics to operate unless the physician has admitting privileges at a nearby hospital. In rural areas of Virginia and Wisconsin, two states that have recently passed TRAP laws, there is not a hospital close by.

Dozens of rural clinics face closure because of TRAP laws. Those who support TRAP laws say they help ensure the safety of women by requiring their doctors to have admitting privileges. The vast majority of abortions are outpatient procedures that are less invasive than some dental work, colonoscopies, vasectomies, and plastic surgeries, yet only abortion providers are targeted for these unnecessarily restrictive measures.

In an article in today's Chicago Tribune, professor emeritus of obstetrics and gynecology Dr. John Sciarra writes, "in those days [before Roe v Wade], 20 American women died for every 100,000 live births, many from unsafe abortions. We knew that legalizing abortion could save many of those lives, and we were right: today's maternal mortality rate is half of what is was then, because legal abortion is safe and back alley attempts are much rarer. We were optimistic that society would hail legalized abortion as a win for everyone. [...] Rather than increasing contraceptive availability as we recommended in 1972, ideologues attack family planning and are making all reproductive health care less available to the poor."

Sciarra concludes with "no law that has ever been passed and no law that ever will be passed can prevent a determined woman from trying to end an unwanted pregnancy. Society and hospitals must accept their role in keeping women safe in that process."

As a physician in training who believes in her patient's abilities to make their own choices and in the privacy and privileges of the doctor patient relationship, I absolutely agree with Sciarra's words.

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