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Two years after Dobbs, the need to protect reproductive rights is greater than ever

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Two years after Dobbs, the need to protect reproductive rights is greater than ever

Jun 21, 2024 | 2:13 pm ET
By Valerie Sorkin-Wells, MD
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Two years after Dobbs, the need to protect reproductive rights is greater than ever
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A protester attends a June 24, 2022, rally against the Supreme Court’s decision to overturn Roe v. Wade. Photo by Andrew Roth | Michigan Advance

On June 24, 2022, the United States Supreme Court ruled in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization to take away the federal right to abortion. This decision left abortion access up to states, and, in the two years since, we’ve seen Arizona politicians not just playing  games with reproductive health care, but putting patients’ health and lives at risk. 

On the anniversary of Dobbs, it’s more important than ever to support efforts to protect reproductive rights.

In Arizona, we value our privacy and our freedom, and the Arizona Abortion Access Act protects both. As a proud Arizonan, I believe – as many do – in a person’s freedom to make their own choices and that patients must be free to exercise individual autonomy. This includes the right to make their own health care decisions without interference from politicians.

As a doctor, I’ve had the privilege of knowing my patients very well. Doctors work hard to build trust in the exam room. We learn about their concerns, hopes and goals for their futures and their families. Protecting our patients’ privacy is very important. The skills of qualified medical providers, with years of medical training and expertise, are essential to helping patients and their families navigate complex physical and emotional medical issues. 

In my years of caring for my patients, I have seen for myself how every patient is unique, with unique medical needs. I firmly believe that every patient should be able to decide what’s best for them and their families with the help of their medical provider. Politicians shouldn’t be involved in these decisions, nor should they have more control over patients’ health care decisions than doctors and patients themselves. 

As an OB/GYN, I often helped patients explore their options so that they had the best information possible when making deeply personal decisions. I’ve been in the room when patients faced serious challenges – things like ectopic pregnancies, fetal abnormalities that are incompatible with life, or severe medical problems such as high blood pressure or worsening diabetes, all of which could result in the early end of a pregnancy. 

These are difficult moments in our exam rooms, and should not be complicated by political ideology.

In states that ban abortions, patients experience worse health outcomes during pregnancy because doctors are forced to ignore standard of care recommendations for fear of losing their license, severe fines or imprisonment.

Abortion bans like the one that Arizona’s Republican lawmakers defended ignore these realities of modern medicine and deny patients a medical option. In fact, Arizona’s original ban goes all the way back to 1864, before Arizona was a state. For my patients who faced all kinds of terrifying complications during their pregnancies, the 1864 law effectively told them that they must continue their pregnancies, no matter what. 

Even the current 15-week ban has no exceptions for rape, incest or the health of the mother. Real-world medical practice demands that doctors today follow rigorous standards of care and medical evidence. Medical practice should not be politically driven by one-size-fits-all edicts from politicians with no experience in medicine and health care. 

Today, we know that patients who live in states with abortion bans face tremendous challenges that put their health and their lives at risk. Because of abortion bans, far too many women today are denied treatment during and after their miscarriages when their pregnancies developed serious complications from hemorrhage and/or infection. 

Women in these states are forced to continue their pregnancy until they become gravely ill, or until the embryo or fetus dies, in order to receive the care that they deserve. We know of women who no longer can have children because they lost vital reproductive organs after they were refused timely care. 

These all add up, giving us a more complete, deeply disturbing picture: In states that ban abortions, patients experience worse health outcomes during pregnancy because doctors are forced to ignore standard of care recommendations for fear of losing their license, severe fines or imprisonment.

It’s been a scary, painful two years for women and also for their families and health care providers in Arizona and states across the country since the Dobbs decision. But in November, Arizonans have the opportunity to put medicine back in the hands of health care experts and patients. 

We deserve the freedom to decide what’s best for our health without politicians meddling in our privacy.

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