"I'm happy to contribute, but can you keep it anonymous? It's a safety concern for me."
On the day that the Supreme Court of the United States voted to strike down Roe v. Wade, I reached out to ob/gyns across the country, wanting to hear their reactions. My own response, like that of many doctors and women, was a visceral mix of anger, fear, and grief. I could only begin to imagine what the real experts on reproductive healthcare were going through.
When the first ob/gyn responded to my request by expressing concerns around anonymity and personal safety, I was shocked — but I shouldn't have been. For starters, there is already a storied history in this country of deadly attacks on abortion providers. David Gunn, MD; Barnett Slepian, MD; and George Tiller, MD, were all tragically murdered by anti-abortion extremists. Then, there's the existence of websites that keep logs of abortion providers and sometimes include photos, office contact information, or even home addresses.
The idea that any reproductive health care provider should have to think twice before offering their uniquely qualified opinion is profoundly disturbing, nearly as disturbing as the Supreme Court's decision itself. But it's more critical than ever for ob/gyn voices to be amplified. This is the time for the healthcare community to rally around women's health providers, to learn from them, to support them.
I asked ob/gyns around the country to tell me what they were thinking and feeling on the day that Roe v. Wade was overturned. We agreed to keep the responses anonymous, given that several people expressed very understandable safety concerns.
Here's what they had to say:
"Today is an emotionally charged day for many people in this country, yet as I type this, with my ob/gyn practice continuing around me, with my own almost 10-week pregnancy growing inside me, I feel quite blunted. I feel powerless to answer questions that are variations on 'What next?' or 'How do we fight back?' All I can think of is, I am so glad I do not have anyone on my schedule right now who does not want to be pregnant. But what will happen when that eventually changes? What about my colleagues who do have these patients on their schedules today? On a personal level, what if my prenatal genetic testing comes back abnormal? How can we so blatantly disregard a separation of church and state in this country? What ways will our government interfere with my practice next? My head is spinning, but I have to go see my next patient. She is a 25-year-old who is here to have an IUD placed, and that seems like the most important thing I can do today."
South Carolina ob/gyn
"I'm really scared. For my patients and for myself. I don't know how to be a good ob/gyn if my ability to offer safe and accessible abortion care is being threatened."
"Livid and devastated and sad and terrified."
California family planning specialist
"The fact is that about 1 in 4 people with uteruses have had an abortion. I can't tell you how many abortions I've provided for people who say that they don't 'believe' in them or that they thought they'd never be in this situation…The fact is that pregnancy is a life-threatening condition in and of itself. I am an ob/gyn, a medical doctor, and an abortion provider. I will not stop providing abortions or helping people access them. I will dedicate my life to ensuring this right to bodily autonomy. Today I am devastated by the Supreme Court's decision to force parenthood that will result in increased maternal mortality. I am broken, but I have never been more proud to be an abortion provider."
New York ob/gyn
"Grateful to live in a state and work for a hospital where I can provide abortions but feel terrible for so many people less fortunate and underserved."
Illinois maternal-fetal medicine specialist
"As a maternal-fetal medicine specialist, I fear for my patients who are at the highest risk of pregnancy complications having their freedom taken away. For the tragic ultrasound findings that make a pregnant person carry a baby who will never live. For the patients who cannot use most forms of contraception because of their medical comorbidities. For the patients who are victims of intimate partner violence or under the influence of their culture, to continue having children regardless of their desires or their health… The freedom to prevent or end a pregnancy has enabled women to become independent and productive members of society on their own terms, with or without children. My heart breaks for the children and adolescents and adults who are being told they are second-class citizens, not worthy of making their own decisions. Politicians and Supreme Court justices are not in the clinic room, ultrasound suite, operating room, or delivery room when we have these intense conversations and pregnancy outcomes. They have no idea that of which they speak, and it's unconscionable that they can determine what healthcare decisions my patients can make for their own lives. Nobody knows a body better than the patient themself."
"In the area where I live and practice, it feels like guns and the people who use them have more legal rights than people with uteruses in desperate or life-threatening situations. I'm afraid for my personal safety as a women's health practitioner in this political climate. I feel helpless, but I'm supposed to be able to help my patients."
Missouri family planning specialist
"Abortion is an essential part of healthcare, and the only people that should get a say in it are the patient and their doctor. Period. The fact that some far-off court without any medical expertise can insert itself into individual medical decisions is oppressive and unethical."
"I can't even think straight right now. I feel sick. Honestly, I've been thinking about moving for a long time now. Somewhere where I would actually be able to offer good, comprehensive care."
New York ob/gyn
"I graduated from my ob/gyn residency hours after the Roe v. Wade news broke. It was so emotional for me. I've dedicated my life to caring for people with uteruses and I will not let this heartbreaking news change that. I feel more committed than ever to women's health. I fully plan to continue delivering babies, providing contraception, and performing abortions. I will be there to help women with desired pregnancies who received unspeakably bad news about fetal anomalies. I will be there to help women with life-threatening pregnancy complications before fetal viability. I will be there to help women with ectopic pregnancies. I will be there to help women who were raped or otherwise forced into pregnancy. I will always be there to help women."
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Cite this: Leah Croll. Ob/Gyns on the Day That Roe v. Wade Was Overturned - Medscape - Jun 27, 2022.