Opinion | I’m an OB-GYN. Halting abortions won’t help supply shortage.

Jen Villavicencio
Dr. Jen Villavicencio is a Michigan OB-GYN  and family planning specialist. She's also a clinical lecturer in the obstetrics and gynecology department at the University of Michigan.

On any given day, I deliver babies, screen for cancer, provide urgent consultation in emergency rooms, perform complex surgeries and provide abortion care. 

As a board-certified OB-GYN, I know the necessary resources involved in the practice of medicine. And as someone providing essential health care during the COVID-19 pandemic, someone who has volunteered to be “deployed” outside of my specialty to coronavirus wards and field hospitals, I am deeply committed to excellent stewardship of resources. My duty to continue to care for the people of Michigan during the crisis of our lifetime, compels me to continue to offer abortion care during this pandemic.

Political groups working to ban abortion argue that health centers providing abortions should be “shut down” to preserve critical personal protective equipment (PPE). As a doctor actively caring for patients during this pandemic, I understand how desperately important access to appropriate PPE is — I need it to protect my life and the lives of my family.  I also know that stopping abortion care in Michigan will do absolutely nothing to improve the PPE shortage. 

This is because a medication abortion, which is offered through the first trimester of pregnancy (when 90 percent of abortions occur), can be accessed entirely without touch or need for any personal protective equipment (PPE). Procedural abortion requires only the use of eye protection and gloves, neither of which are in shortage. Prenatal care for ongoing pregnancies, which I also provide, requires use of gowns, gloves, masks, ultrasounds and other equipment on an ongoing basis. Abortion remains accessible and exceedingly safe in Michigan during the COVID-19 pandemic, without utilizing critical resources. I know this because I am a medical expert, a doctor practicing during a pandemic, and someone who is putting her life on the line.

The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, representing nearly 60,000 OBGYNs across the country, the American Medical Association, and eight other professional organizations have released statements establishing that abortion care is essential and should continue to be available and accessible. Nearly 1 million health care providers, represented by their respective professional organizations, have signed onto a legal brief opposing the Texas abortion ban. The legitimate medical and scientific community recognizes abortion as necessary, urgent health care. 

We are all scared right now. Some of us facing the most fear are those deciding to end their pregnancies, a decision they are making with their families and doctors based on their unique circumstances. They are scared because political groups wanting to ban abortion are threatening their ability to access time-sensitive health care. They are scared because the reasons people need abortions do not go away during a crisis — in fact, they are likely to be exacerbated by pandemic threats to economic stability, certainty of the future, and personal health. This is no time for putting politics and ideology ahead of my patients’ needs.  Just as I am an expert in medicine, my patients, the women and people of Michigan, are the experts in their lives. It is immoral to capitalize on this pandemic to threaten people’s ability to access compassionate, empathetic, expert health care. I am proud to practice as a doctor in a state that has recognized the needs of all of its citizens, and I will continue to serve Michiganders, no matter the circumstances.

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Wed, 04/08/2020 - 6:36pm

It's funny. I'm what you would consider an animal rights activist, and it baffles me that we call it "abortion". It is sanctioned murder, and if these were living baby animals being vacuumed out of a cute furry animal's uterus, I wonder if people would feel differently.
Don't get me wrong, I don't care one way or the other if someone wants to kill their baby, AS LONG as we call it what it is - killing a human being, not a "fetus".
I'm liberal as all get out and I'm pretty sure most of my peers are delusional. I assure you, I am one of the sane ones!

Hannah Blakely
Thu, 04/09/2020 - 8:42pm

Thank you for your honesty and at least some sense of logic. You are exactly correct, if I said I was going to abort the puppies my dog was carrying these people would be coming out of the woodwork like cockroaches. And if I used the argument that there are SO many dogs/cats in the shelter in need of adoption and therefore they should be adopting them if they don't want me to have my dog's puppies aborted. Or the puppies should be aborted because they'll just grow up in a home where the owner will abuse it and not feed it or give it vet care.
A human doctor is supposed to uphold and preserve LIFE. Abortion takes life. A woman's health has not been a logical argument for abortion in decades, if ever. But pro death to baby for my convenience people will say legal is safe, and yet if you google (I dare you) to see how many women DIED FROM BOTCHED ABORTIONS, what would they call that??? collateral damage? things happen. Well then, use the same "logic" and I say leave a woman to her CHOICE and if she CHOOSES to self abort, THAT'S HER CHOICE. But killing babies is immoral and detrimental to society and most particularly to the woman and her baby.

Sat, 04/11/2020 - 10:02am

"These people", really, I mean really.
Mahatma Gandhi sums it up greatly: "I like your Christ, I do not like your Christians. Your Christians are so unlike your Christ."

Sat, 04/11/2020 - 9:58pm

Um, I hate to break it to you, but vets do abortions on dogs all the time. Its a very common procedure, and I have yet to find your supposed protestors outside vet clinics. Plenty of cockroaches, er, protestors harassing women outside regular clinics though.

A fertilized egg is a life the way a sperm is, but I doubt you want funerals for the used kleenex of males all over the country. I know people like you consider the health (and lives) of women to be a trivial matter, but fortunately you are in the minority.

You would be VERY disappointed if you actually googled those stats. Abortions in the first trimester are actually 14x safer than giving birth. Abortion complication rates hover at around 1%. They are safer than colonoscopies.

Illegal abortions, however, do take their share of lives. And that's what flourishes when fanatics like you have their way.

Embryos aren't babies. If you know about actual babies being killed, call police.

Tue, 04/28/2020 - 12:09pm

Hannah, you are a nutcase. Get help.

Sat, 04/11/2020 - 10:00pm

Fetus is a correct medical term. Take it up with the dictionary.

And sorry to break the news to you, but vets do terminations for cats and dogs all the time.

Tue, 04/28/2020 - 11:47am

I don't believe you. You're just trying to bait people with a red herring argument and then reply favorably to your own comments. It is a fetus and it is abortion, not murder. Grow up. It's really ridiculous how people claiming to be holier than thou would employ Machiavellian means, but such is life.

Janet Watz
Wed, 04/08/2020 - 7:47pm

Well said, Thank you

Karen Dunnam
Wed, 04/08/2020 - 9:02pm

Well written, Dr Villavicencio

Justine Wu
Wed, 04/08/2020 - 10:09pm

Thank you Dr. Villavicencio for calling out the importance of abortion as an essential health service!

Thu, 04/09/2020 - 9:44am

"The importance of abortion as an essential health service" Do you really consider hideously murdering helpless babies an essential health service? You're all way beyond sick!

Sat, 04/11/2020 - 9:59pm

What babies, Terry? Embryos aren't babies.

Pro Life?
Tue, 04/28/2020 - 12:14pm

Terry, how many foster children have you adopted?

Vicki Stein
Thu, 04/09/2020 - 1:32am

My words are simple:


J. Kubiak
Thu, 04/09/2020 - 10:20am

Unless the mother's life is threatened by a health concern, there is nothing essential about killing an unborn child. In the vast majority of abortion cases, the pregnancy participants were irresponsible and subsequently became subjects of an "inconvenient" outcome. To ignore physical conception and fetal life in favor of social and political acceptance is an abomination and devalues all life itself. Shame on anyone who terms common abortion as essential or acceptable. It is surely sanctioned murder from a moral perspective. I pray that our world returns to an ethical view of life and reestablishes that very foundation.

Sat, 04/11/2020 - 10:02pm

Thank you for inspiring me to donate extra to Planned Parenthood this month.

A Tone
Tue, 04/28/2020 - 12:16pm

J. Kubiak, shame on you for passing judgment like you are God. Pride is the biggest sin in the Bible.

Diane Hallinen, MD
Thu, 04/09/2020 - 10:52am

Excellent article, thank you. I worry about the women undergoing self induced abortion in Texas. A perforated uterus is going to require at least 3 sets of PPE, not to mention the danger the woman faces. I‘m grateful Whitmer won. Forced pregnancy is so wrong.

Pro Choice
Tue, 04/28/2020 - 12:18pm

I also worry for all the women and girls stuck at home in abusive situations who may be raped by family members. Let them have control of their fate rather than the abusers.

Thu, 04/09/2020 - 1:16pm

What? A "non essential" entereprise being shut down for absolutely no good health reason? Who'd imagine such a thing? Didn't i hear our Govenor say something about people doing otherwise isolated occupations might touch a gas pump and transfer the virus so therefore must be required to stay home????

Tue, 04/28/2020 - 12:21pm

Only a pregnant female and her doctor can decide if an abortion is essential, not you or anyone else.

Gerry Niedermaier
Thu, 04/09/2020 - 1:20pm

Well done Dr. Villavicencio.
I too consider myself as a liberal. Were my wife and I to have conceived when we were younger we would have not considered abortion.
And, we are both proponents of women reproductive health.
I wonder how many ladies who are dissenters of this message are proponents of birth control and if they have used it in the past?
Men have ready access to Viagra, and yet women who want birth control are prohibited by religious views of gaining access. Viagra is covered by medical insurances, while birth control for women is still not covered by some insurances.
So to those ladies who don't want to get pregnant I guess your supposed to just keep their legs closed? Or just say "no" to a overpowering male who may be their dad, brother, uncle, a stranger, a spouse or a serial rapist with no recourse?????

Hannah Blakely
Thu, 04/09/2020 - 8:34pm

This so called doctor is a sad excuse for a "doctor". Clearly her perspective and those who share it believe that PEOPLE ARE EXPENDABLE. THINK ABOUT WHAT YOU'RE SUPPORTING. A woman's right to choose? CHOOSE WHAT? Choose to kill her baby that she knew was a risk of creating the moment she had SEX. Even if she uses birth control and it fails, we know nothing is 100% so there is still RISK OF PREGNANCY and she took that risk. It's a lame excuse for pro death to baby for my convenience people to call this anything other than what it is: MURDER. This baby did nothing to deserve a death sentence. NOTHING! And the fact that religious groups are being discriminated against and ordered to close while ELECTIVE murders are allowed to continue is not political, it's UNFAIR. We cannot worship God in our churches, but pro deathers for convenience are able to worship their satan abortionists. Destroying the family is what destroys our society. PERIOD.

Gerry Niedermaier
Sat, 04/11/2020 - 10:05am

Another disgusting, hate laden, vile filled response.

Sun, 04/12/2020 - 4:46am

Abortion and the supporters of it. A hate laden, vile filled action and response .

Tue, 04/28/2020 - 12:26pm

Terry, all I hear is blah blah blah

Sun, 04/19/2020 - 3:29pm

Thank you for inspiring me to donate extra to National Network of Abortion Funds this month. Forced birth fanatics like you disgust me.

Also, if you worship a god that has killed countless kids in his own holy book, you should probably shut up about abortion. Seriously, read your bible, its not very fetus-friendly. It says a man who suspects his wife is pregnant by another man can be forced to miscarry, two men who fight and cause a woman to miscarry only pay a fine (but if the woman is killed they are put to death), and more than one verse encourages ripping up pregnant women with swords.

Anne S
Tue, 04/28/2020 - 12:25pm

Hannah, have you ever heard of Roe v Wade? If you don't like abortion, don't have one. It's that simple.