Health care professionals share personal accounts, correct misconceptions about abortion advanced by Mississippi’s 15-week ban
On September 20, 2021, on behalf of a diverse group of health care professionals, leading medical organizations filed an amicus brief in the U.S. Supreme Court case, Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization. The case, brought by the Center for Reproductive Rights on behalf of Jackson Women’s Health Organization — the last abortion provider in Mississippi — challenges a blatantly unconstitutional ban on abortion care after 15 weeks of pregnancy that seeks to overturn nearly 50 years of precedent since Roe v. Wade. The Supreme Court recently announced it will hear oral arguments in the case on December 1, 2021.
The groups are Abortion Care Network, Bixby Center for Global Reproductive Health, Medical Students for Choice, National Abortion Federation, Physicians for Reproductive Health, and Planned Parenthood Federation of America. Orrick, Herrington & Sutcliffe LLP is serving as pro-bono counsel.
The brief corrects misconceptions about abortion and includes first-hand accounts from trained, expert health care professionals who provide abortion — including physicians, clinic administrators, and medical students — on the devastating consequences abortion bans and restrictions have on patients across the country, including today in Texas. The brief was filed on the 20th day that Texas’s S.B. 8 — the radical “sue thy neighbor” law that has made abortion virtually inaccessible in the state — has been in effect.
Excerpts from health care providers featured in the brief are below.
Bhavik Kumar, M.D., M.P.H., Texas; Planned Parenthood provider“When Texas banned abortion in the spring of 2020, claiming falsely that abortion was a non-essential service, our clinic was forced to shut down four different times. I remember one patient who came to our clinic four times—we had to turn her away twice because of court orders that were issued while she was in our waiting room. I had patients who had to travel, in the middle of a pandemic, to as far as Chicago or Colorado, to access the care that we could have provided right here. And I had other patients who didn’t have the means or ability to travel out of state.”
Amna Dermish, M.D., Texas; Planned Parenthood provider“Just today, I had to turn away several patients who were too far along to obtain an abortion in Texas, including a patient who was less than six weeks pregnant. One curled up into a fetal position and started bawling hysterically. The others reacted more calmly but with no less devastation. I’m already dreading tomorrow, where I will yet again be forced to inflict pain on my patients as I deny them the care they need.”
Lori Williams, M.S.N., A.P.R.N., Arkansas; National Abortion Federation board chair“For me, abortion care is natural. It is a calling. It is my passion. People in the abortion community— people who feel just as passionately about their work as I do—have said to me, ‘You’ve chosen such a hard place to provide this care. You could do this in places where it wouldn’t be so stressful and difficult. Why Arkansas?’ But I always knew that I needed to do this work in Arkansas. And I still feel that way.”
Ying Zhang, M.D., Washington“I provide full-spectrum primary care. That includes taking care of babies, children, adults, and older people. And it includes taking care of people who are pregnant and want to be pregnant, and people who are pregnant and don’t want to be pregnant. With that perspective, it’s easy for me to see that abortion care should be a regular part of healthcare. It is care that people need to live their fullest and best lives.”
Ghazaleh Moayedi, D.O., M.P.H., Texas and Oklahoma; Physicians for Reproductive Health board member“The biggest obstacle is a lack of access to abortion clinics. In Texas, there are far more places that deceive people about how far along they are and what their options are than there are facilities providing abortion care.”
DeShawn Taylor, M.D., M.Sc., FACOG., Arizona; owner, founder, and physician at Desert Star Family Planning clinic and Abortion Care Network board member“Abortion saves lives. … The state talks about demeaning the medical profession. But what is the black eye on the profession? It’s not giving that person the procedure she needs and letting her die.”
Colleen McNicholas, D.O., M.S., Missouri, Illinois, and Oklahoma; Planned Parenthood provider “We are already seeing patients six days a week for nine hours a day. If we have to absorb even more patients from other states, that means longer delays. It is ironic that the politicians who are trying to restrict second trimester abortion procedures are the ones who will be responsible for pushing abortion later into gestation, including well into the second trimester.”
Jessica Mecklosky, medical student, Medical Students for Choice board of directors“These patients desperately need accurate information about their reproductive health, from sex education to abortion counselling, and they aren’t getting it.”
Dr. Kristina Tocce, M.D., M.P.H., Colorado; Planned Parenthood provider“In April 2020, after Texas banned abortion, our clinic in Colorado saw a massive increase in patients from Texas. Patients were literally fleeing the state to obtain the care they needed, in some cases driving 12 hours each way. … Many—in particular patients of color and patients I perceived to be undocumented—not only had to get time off work, find a ride, coordinate childcare, and arrange for housing and food while on the road.”
Yashica Robinson, M.D., Alabama; Physicians for Reproductive Health board member“As an abortion provider, I strive for integrity and to maintain the ethics of the profession. That means providing patients the care that they need. Like many abortion providers, that is one of the reasons I fight to provide this care. It is unethical to withhold care that a patient needs, sometimes so desperately. That is especially true with patients who have the fewest financial resources, the least amount of social support, and very little meaningful access to healthcare in general. They are the ones most affected by restrictions on abortion.”
Amy Hagstrom Miller, Texas, Maryland, Virginia, Indiana, and Minnesota; president of Whole Woman’s Health and Whole Woman’s Health Alliance“How people obtain abortions in this country is day and night depending on where they live, even though the abortion procedure and safety outcomes are the same everywhere. In some states, government-imposed barriers make it exceedingly difficult for people to access abortion and delay their care. In states where Medicaid and private insurance do not cover abortion, where patients must make two trips to the abortion facility, and where few clinics remain because of state restrictions, patients are more likely to be pushed into the second trimester. And for some patients, these state-imposed barriers make it impossible for them to access an abortion at all.”
Mugdha Mokashi, medical student, past-president of Medical Students for Choice board of directors “It means that where someone resides will directly impact their ability to live their lives on their own terms. And it will deepen inequities in our society.”
Mona Reis, Florida; founder of Presidential Women’s Center“We are about to put people into crisis—especially people with the least resources. I cannot believe this is still not settled, that women still don’t have access to comprehensive healthcare. To me, it is the most fundamental right we have. Having an abortion can be one of the most important decisions a woman will ever make.”