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

Jen Villavicencio

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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