Friday, 14 June, 2024
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Biden pleads to Congress to pass law protecting abortion rights

President Joe Biden has urged the US Congress to pass a law codifying a woman’s right to an abortion, and also raised concerns about the effects that state abortion bans were having on women’s healthcare.

“The (Supreme) Court got Roe right 50 years ago, and the Congress should codify the protections of Roe and do it once and for all,” he said during the second meeting of the administration’s Task Force on Reproductive Healthcare Access.

“But right now, we’re short a handful of votes. The only way it’s going to happen is if the American people make it happen,” reports Medpage Today.

He said congressional Republicans were proposing a national abortion ban, meaning that “even if you live in a state where extremist Republican officials aren’t running the show, your right to choose will still be at risk, because Republicans in Congress want to pass a law to take away the right to choose for every woman in every state, in every county”.

The meeting highlighted two announcements on the topic. First, the Department of Education issued guidance reminding universities that they cannot discriminate on the basis of pregnancy, including for pregnancy termination. Second, more than $6m in new grants and other grants will be issued “to protect and expand access to reproductive healthcare and improve service delivery, promote the adoption of healthy behaviours, and reduce existing health disparities” the task force reported.

The report analysed the reproductive healthcare landscape now that 100 days have passed since the Supreme Court’s 24 June ruling in the case of Dobbs v Jackson Women’s Health Organization, which overturned the 1973 Roe v Wade decision that legalised abortion nationwide.

During that 100 days, “abortion bans have gone into effect in more than a dozen states, most of which ban abortion from the moment of fertilisation and do not provide exceptions for rape or incest”, the report said. In addition, “close to 30m women of reproductive age now live in a state with a ban – including nearly 22m women who cannot access abortion care after six weeks, before most women know they are pregnant”.

Meanwhile, the President said, some states have passed abortion bans or severe restrictions on the procedure. “In Arizona they had a law in 1864 – during the Civil War – which went into effect again a week and a half ago.

“Two days later, a 14-year-old girl suffering from rheumatoid arthritis and osteoporosis couldn’t get a refill for her prescription because of concern it could be used to terminate a pregnancy, in violation of a law in that state. That’s exactly what we were afraid could happen.”

Biden also decried an announcement by University of Idaho officials that they would stop providing contraception to students. “In fact, they told university staff they could get into trouble just for talking or telling students about where they could get birth control,” he said. “Folks, what century are we in? … Lord, we’re talking about contraception; it shouldn’t be that controversial.”

Task force members also heard from obstetricians and gynaecologists who have been affected by the Dobbs decision. The decision “has wreaked havoc across this country, as states, including Georgia, have severe abortion bans in effect, and have threatened clinicians with criminal penalties because of the law that is not based on medicine or science”, said Dr Nisha Verma.

“I am forced to turn away patients I know how to care for,” she said. “I have had teenagers with chronic medical conditions that make their pregnancy very high risk, and women with highly desired pregnancies who receive a terrible diagnosis of a foetal anomaly, who cry when they learn they can’t receive their abortion in our state, and beg me to help them. Imagine saying, ‘I have all the skills and the tools to help you. But our politicians have told me I can’t’.”

Dr Kristin Lyerly said she had to stop providing abortions at a Sheboygan abortion clinic – one of four such clinics in the state – after the Dobbs decision. A law now in effect in Wisconsin “makes it a felony for me to provide abortion care to my patients”, she said.

“There are no exceptions for rape, and no exceptions for incest. The only exception is for the life of the mother.”

In addition, “people in our state are being denied medication for miscarriage management”, she said. “They are being denied treatment in emergency departments while actively bleeding, presumably because the treatment for a miscarriage is essentially the same as the medication or procedure that can terminate an early pregnancy.”

And there is one other effect to consider, she said: “With physician burnout at an all-time high and a number of physicians leaving the field in the wake of the pandemic, our training programmes can’t keep up.

“Medical students and residents who had planned to stay and practice in Wisconsin are now wondering whether they will receive the training they need to take care of their patients and whether they can live and work in a state where doctors can be jailed for fulfilling their duty of care.”


Medpage Today article – Biden Urges Congress to Pass Law Protecting Abortion Rights (Open access)


See more from MedicalBrief archives:


Roe vs Wade: US abortion rights’ ruling could hurt women worldwide


US doctor threatens defamation suit over 10-year-old’s abortion case


Biden order eases access to abortion, protects clinics and physicians


Political, not legal, threat from US abortion row



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