AMSA President as Guest of Congressman Bobby Scott at State of the Union Address

March 12, 2024

by Rohini Kousalya Siva, MD, MPH, MS, National President of the American Medical Student Association 

I am thrilled to share the profound experience I had as the honored guest of Congressman Bobby Scott at the State of the Union address. Congressman Scott’s invitation speaks volumes about the vital commitment all legislators should uphold: amplifying the voices of healthcare providers, especially amid challenging times where reproductive rights and freedom face threats, ensuring policymaking aligns with evidence-based, patient-centered care principles.

Attending the State of the Union address was an extraordinary experience, filled with inspiration and hope. Being on Capitol Hill among Congresspeople, esteemed guests, and fellow advocates, including abortion rights advocates like Dr. Caitlin Bernard, Dr. Damla Karsan, representatives from Planned Parenthood, and many others, was incredibly empowering. Engaging with leaders such as Whip Katherine Clark and the Pro-Choice Caucus allowed for profound discussions on why abortion access is essential healthcare and why it must be protected. Witnessing the collective dedication to fighting for reproductive rights and abortion access filled my cup of hope and reinforced my resolve to continue advocating for comprehensive reproductive healthcare.

During this significant event, I had the privilege of meeting with Secretary Becerra, we engaged in a thoughtful discussion on the underlying reasons why many aspiring physicians are hesitant to pursue practice in states burdened by abortion restrictions. We explored how these limitations not only discourage healthcare professionals but also perpetuate healthcare disparities, exacerbating the challenges faced by underserved communities.

As a future obstetrician-gynecologist (OBGYN) and abortion care provider, I am committed to ensuring access to comprehensive reproductive care for all individuals. It is why I have made the conscious decision to apply only to residency programs in states without stringent abortion restrictions. These states provide the environment necessary for me to receive the training I need to provide all aspects of comprehensive reproductive care without fear of legal repercussions and without fear of harming my patients. 

Sitting in the gallery, listening to President Biden’s address, I was reminded of the myriad challenges our nation faces, from education to reproductive freedom to global humanitarian crises. As the next generation of physicians, I am proud to stand with the American Medical Student Association in advocating for quality, affordable healthcare for all. Access to comprehensive health services, including reproductive healthcare and safe, voluntary abortions, must be recognized as fundamental human rights.

My op-ed in Ms. Magazine, which caught Congressman Scott’s attention, underscores the power of student activism in driving meaningful change. Through strategic collaborations with organizations like the Hub Project’s Free and Just Campaign, AMSA empowers students to advocate for healthcare policies that positively impact our future patients and communities.

At AMSA, every student has a seat at the table, an opportunity to engage directly with policymakers, and a platform to make their voices heard. By speaking up and taking action, we can shape the future of healthcare and ensure equitable access to quality healthcare for all.

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