As practicing obstetrician-gynecologists in Colorado, we believe facts about abortion and contraception matter — and words matter, too.
If pregnant people and a medical procedure are going to be used as fodder for a political dispute, we all have an obligation to get the medical science and facts right.
That means relying on doctors and medical professionals for their expertise, not politicians who are trying to use stigma, shame and inflammatory language to keep pregnant people from exercising their constitutional rights.
Recently, Facebook took down a fact check of an anti-abortion video by three doctors after four male Republican senators objected. That’s not OK.
According to the American College of Obstetrician Gynecologists, “The term ‘late-term abortion’ has no medical definition and is not used in a clinical setting or to describe the delivery of abortion care later in pregnancy.” The correct phrase is “abortion later in pregnancy.” Every patient is different, and every pregnancy and its timeline are unique.
Furthermore, there are no medical reasons for bans on abortion later in pregnancy. The reasons for these restrictions are purely political. In fact, all abortion bans are arbitrary and unnecessary, whether at six weeks or 22 weeks.
It’s important to understand that abortion is extremely safe. This is precisely why the Supreme Court struck down Texas’ TRAP (Targeted Regulation of Abortion Provider) law in 2016 — because these types of laws have nothing to do with making abortion safer. They are only designed to make abortion more difficult to access, especially for poor women.
A first-trimester abortion is one of the safest medical procedures available — safer than colonoscopies, laser eye surgery, vasectomies and tooth extractions.
Nor can you “reverse” an abortion — though several state laws, including one proposed here in Colorado, have tried to force health care providers to tell our patients otherwise.
This is a false claim that is wholly unsupported by the best, most reliable scientific evidence. A recent study was halted because it was dangerous — three women in the study ended up going to the hospital with severe bleeding.
Any bill that requires health care providers to inform patients that “reversal” is possible is a violation of the ethical and legal obligations of health care providers.
And in Ohio, a bill would actually require physicians to attempt to reimplant ectopic pregnancies, a life-threatening situation where a fertilized egg implants outside the uterus, often in the fallopian tube.
This procedure does not exist. These pregnancies are not viable, and if left untreated, they can result in a ruptured fallopian tube, hemorrhage and even death. The only treatment is to terminate the pregnancy with medication or surgery. To even propose this is profoundly dangerous to pregnant people.
It’s also important to understand there is no “good abortion” or “bad” abortion. People have an abortion for different reasons, all of which are right for them.
The Turnaway Study found that people seek abortion care for finances, timing, issues with a partner and the need to focus on their other children. All abortion choices are valid. It is our ethical obligation as physicians to give our patients full and accurate medical information about their options.
And this is why the Trump Administration’s gag rule on any health care provider who receives Title X family planning funds from providing abortion referrals is so wrong and so insidious.
As The Colorado Sun reported, rather than discussing their options, clinics are literally handing patients a piece of paper with phone numbers and relying on them to call and see who on the list provides abortion care.
This is not only ridiculous, but it also goes against our oath as medical professionals to provide comprehensive and evidence-based information to our patients.
States are passing abortion bans and restrictions that are medically nonsensical and physically harmful to pregnant people, using incendiary language and junk science.
The medical facts about abortion care get distorted or left out altogether in the debate, which is profoundly dangerous at a time when our profession and our patients are under attack.
The voices of medical professionals need to be heard, and the correct medical and scientific facts and terminology used. Words matter.
Dr. Kristina Tocce is an obstetrician-gynecologist who also serves as Vice President and Medical Director of Planned Parenthood of the Rocky Mountains. Dr. Emily Schneider is a Denver native and a board-certified Ob-Gyn with her own practice.
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