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Commentary

Opinion: Call to stop the politicization of health care

Abortion rights supporters at an Annapolis rally in October. Photo by Josh Kurtz.

By Kate Sugarman and Christie Pitney

Dr. Kate Sugarman is a family physician. She has been in practice since 1991 and her expertise is in public health settings.

Christie Pitney is a certified nurse-midwife who owns a telehealth practice, Forward Midwifery, works with Aid Access and Plan C Pills, and co-founded the Abortion Freedom Fund.

Currently, in the U.S., one in three pregnant people no longer has access to legal abortion in their state. People in Maryland still have access to legal abortion but there are a number of candidates in the upcoming midterm election who are working to take that access away. As clinicians, we must advocate on behalf of our patients and call to only support candidates who will fight to keep abortion accessible.

One of us has been practicing family medicine since 1991, while the other has been a midwife since 2017. Occasionally, a pregnant patient may decide, for reasons that are deeply personal to them and their family, to end that pregnancy. We do not judge. We present them with medically safe options.  As experienced health care providers, we know how critical it is to respect our patients’ bodily autonomy and privacy. That includes respecting our patients’ rights and decisions, based on their unique circumstances and beliefs, to choose to have a family or not. And if they decide to raise a family, it is their right to choose when, where, and how they want to do this. This basic human right includes the right to abortion.

Many politicians want to persuade people that abortion procedures and medications are not safe. When abortion is legal and accessible, choosing an abortion is an easy and medically safe procedure. Sixty-five percent of abortions occur within the first eight weeks of gestation, and 91% are performed within the first 13 weeks. Only 1.4% occur at or after 21 weeks which is evaluated on a case-by-case basis. Abortions are significantly safer than many other medical conditions such as managing insulin and having diabetes, for example. The risk of major complication from ALL abortions is approximately 2%. The risk of major complication from medication abortions is less than 0.25% and new research since the COVID-19 pandemic supports that telehealth medication abortions are as safe and effective as in-clinic medication abortions.

Sometimes, barriers such as cost, transportation issues, child care needs, immigration and language barriers, the stress of dealing with anti-abortion protestors, and more can push a patient to take desperate measures. It is then, when health care is made inaccessible, when we take that fundamental right away from patients and push them towards desperate solutions, that abortions may become dangerous.

Now more than ever, with the fall of Roe v. Wade, we must ensure that we are electing representatives who stand up for our rights to access complete health care, including abortion. We encourage everyone to get informed regarding which elected officials stand up for reproductive health access prior to November 8th.