Supporters of Planned Parenthood in the gallery of the Tennessee House of Representatives during a 2021 debate about abortion. (Photo: Ray Di Pietro)
This week, I attended the Tennessee House Health Subcommittee meeting and watched as legislators discussed and debated HB 2779 or “The Life Protection Act.” Many other women attending the meeting, worried about the ramifications of this bill, which seeks to outlaw all abortion in this state.
As an emergency physician, my job is to care for people in my emergency department on what is likely one of the worst days of their lives. Women see me when they’ve been abused by intimate partners. They come to my emergency department after sexual assaults and rapes. They also come to the hospital worried when they have unexpected vaginal bleeding or abdominal pain while pregnant. I strive to treat all of my patients with dignity and respect, no matter who they are or why they are in my emergency department.
When a pregnant person comes to the ER and I have to give them devastating news, that they are having a miscarriage or the pregnancy is nonviable, ectopic or otherwise, they should expect to hear sound, medical advice about what to do. That includes referral to an obstetrician who can perform an abortion to prevent severe illness or death. I treat these patients in the only way I know how, with care for their wellbeing and health, no matter the difficult choices they have to make.
Outlawing abortion in Tennessee will not stop women from getting abortions. Dr. Aaron Campbell, an OB/GYN physician from Knoxville said the same thing in his testimony in the House Health Subcommittee. All outlawing abortion does is force women to have them done in an unsafe manner, causing serious risk to their health and lives. Roe v. Wade ensured all women have the right to obtain abortions in a safe and controlled setting.
Women have been ending pregnancies for hundreds of years. The rich will always have the means to obtain an abortion. The people this type of abortion ban hurts most are the most vulnerable of our society.
I firmly believe in the right of people to decide what is best for them, their bodies and their families. And I will continue to educate women who come to my emergency department about their constitutional right to abortion. If this bill means I can get sued for mentioning abortion to my patients who are clearly in dire straights, whether that be financially, emotionally, or physically, then so be it. I say bring on the lawsuits. I am ready to fight for what I believe in, for the patients I treat and for their rights to make informed choices.
Going back to pre-Roe would likely result in the unnecessary harm and deaths of countless women. I am terrified at the prospect of treating patients who have been so desperate that they have taken the matter into their own hands. I have always worked in an environment where pregnant people could obtain an abortion safely and legally. When abortion is outlawed in Tennessee and pregnant people resort to desperate measures, taking matters into their own hands, I stand ready to treat them and hopefully save their lives when they inevitably show up in my emergency department.
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