Commentary

Georgians face real dangers with Roe gone, virtually no access to abortion

September 14, 2022 2:04 pm

Abortion rights protesters marched through Atlanta following the Supreme Court decision overturning Roe v. Wade. Ross Williams/Georgia Recorder

Every Georgian deserves the freedom to make the deeply personal and private decision whether or not to carry an unexpected pregnancy to term. A woman seeking an abortion should be able to receive compassionate care, guided by unbiased medical information, rather than political agendas and one-size-fits-all laws. As a doctor, I’m deeply concerned that my patients, and women across Georgia, may find themselves without this health care soon due to a law, signed by Gov. Brian Kemp in 2019, which a federal appeals court panel ruled recently is now in effect.

That’s because the fundamental freedom for all Americans to make decisions about their bodies is now gone. On June 24, the U.S. Supreme Court, made up of a majority of unelected extremist judges, overturned Roe v. Wade and opened the door for states to prohibit access to abortion care.

Georgia’s politicians didn’t even wait. In 2019, Gov. Brian Kemp signed a law that prohibits a pregnant person from getting an abortion at around six weeks – when many women may have just missed their period and don’t even know they are pregnant. That law also gives personhood rights to embryos. The governor and other Georgia politicians are interfering with all women’s health, including fertility treatments such as IVF and contraception.

The law had been tied up in court, but on July 20, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 11th Circuit vacated its injunction and said the law could go into effect immediately.

So now, Georgians who find themselves pregnant after six weeks will be forced to travel, likely many states away, to get the care they need. That’s if they can afford to travel and take time off from work, which will disproportionately and unfairly burden people working low-wage jobs.

Those who cannot travel may be forced to remain pregnant.

With the green light from the courts, Georgia politicians can now force people to carry unwanted or dangerous pregnancies against their will. In Georgia, the cost of forced pregnancy will be high.

The United States already has the worst maternal care and highest maternal mortality rate among similarly developed countries. Georgia is, unfortunately, the most dangerous state for pregnant women in terms of maternal death rates. And our atrocious maternal mortality rate is actually worsening.

The fact is pregnancy and delivery are much more physically risky than having an abortion, which is especially true for people of color. Black women are three times more likely to die from pregnancy complications than white women nationally. Black women are also more likely to suffer from hypertension. Hypertensive diseases of pregnancy, and pre-existing hypertension, contribute to the risk of preeclampsia, stroke and cardiovascular disease which are the leading causes of maternal deaths in Georgia.

Even though the Georgia law makes exceptions for the health of the woman or futile pregnancies, the language is so vague that even women who are referred or counseled to terminate a pregnancy with anomalies incompatible with life may not find a provider willing to perform the procedure because they are concerned about being prosecuted. So even women who fall under the law’s exception will have to face the undue burden of having to go out of state for care.

By forcing someone to be pregnant, politicians are preventing people in abusive relationships from being able to get out and be safe. People who are denied an abortion experience worse mental health and economic outcomes than those who are able to receive care.

Nobody should be forced to be pregnant, and take on these risks, if they don’t want to be.

Complex and personal decisions such as these are part of the private doctor-patient relationship, which is fundamental to good and ethical health care. Politicians and unelected judges have no place in the exam room.

Instead of prohibiting access to abortion, Georgia’s elected leaders should be working to protect health care, including access to abortion, so our fellow Georgians can get the full spectrum of care and treatment.

Physicians fear that, without action to protect abortion access from our state leaders, many Georgians will suffer and die unnecessarily.

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Dr. Didi Saint Louis
Dr. Didi Saint Louis

Dr. Didi Saint Louis is an OBGYN in Atlanta and Member of the Committee to Protect Health Care’s Reproductive Freedom Taskforce.

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