Four months after the right-wing majority of the U.S. Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade, Sen. Elizabeth Warren led several Democratic lawmakers Tuesday in sharing a comprehensive look at the effects of the state-level attacks on reproductive care that the ruling set in motion.
The Massachusetts Democrat contacted healthcare professionals at the American Medical Association (AMA), Physicians for Reproductive Health (PRH), National Nurses United (NNU), the American Pharmacists Association (APhA), and the American Hospital Association (AHA) over the last two months to determine what impacts of abortion bans doctors and nurses have observed.
In the report Warren released Tuesday with Sens. Tammy Duckworth (D-Ill.), Tina Smith (D-Minn.), and Mazie Hirono (D-Hawaii), healthcare providers explained how abortion bans in states like Texas and Arkansas have adversely affected their ability to care for patients who need a variety of services and have cut down on abortion access even in states where abortion remains legal.
“In the aftermath of the Supreme Court overturning Roe v. Wade, this report reveals that the abortion bans and extreme restrictions imposed by Republican politicians have devastating health consequences and threaten women’s lives,” said Warren in a statement.
Warren’s communications with healthcare workers provided five key findings about state-imposed abortion bans and restrictions, according to the report. Such policies:
- Affect all women seeking reproductive healthcare, even in states where abortion remains legal;
- Have created mortal threats to women suffering from miscarriages, ectopic pregnancies, and other complications;
- Threaten healthcare providers and interfere with the doctor-patient relationship;
- Disproportionately impact communities of color, rural communities, and low-income communities; and
- Result in broader restrictions on medical care and medical education.
- The report also details how the 15-week nationwide abortion ban proposed by Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) “would have a devastating impact on women’s health and the entire healthcare system.”
The NNU described to the lawmakers how nurses in states where abortion rights are protected “are beginning to see increased patient loads because of patients traveling to these states to receive the reproductive healthcare they need.”
Although New Mexico still has seven abortion clinics operating, added PRH, “the wait times for abortion at five of these clinics are a minimum of three weeks because of the influx of patients traveling from the South. Other clinics in New Mexico are so full they have had to periodically stop booking new appointments.”
PRH also provided a response to Warren regarding patients who have ectopic pregnancies—which can be deadly for a pregnant person if left untreated—miscarriages, and other complications, warning that efforts to ban abortion are expected to “lead to a 24% increase in maternal mortality overall,” in a country which already has the highest maternal mortality rate among wealthy nations.
“Consequences of such severe abortion restrictions [include]… providers refusing to treat ectopic pregnancy; and providers being forced to wait to intervene until their patient’s condition worsens because of uncertainty around what is ‘sick enough’ to qualify for an exception under the state’s abortion ban,” PRH wrote to Warren.
As Common Dreams has reported, numerous patients have already been forced to continue carrying nonviable pregnancies until they reached a state where they could have a legal abortion or until their condition became severe enough that the legal department at their hospital deemed it acceptable for providers to terminate the pregnancy.
“This report lays bare the very real, barbaric consequences of Republicans’ state-by-state efforts to control women and strip them of their basic rights to decide what happens to their own bodies,” said Duckworth in a statement. “No one should have to cross state lines to be treated as an equal citizen.”
Abortion bans and restrictions have also kept patients from accessing non-reproductive medical care, the organizations told Warren. APhA noted that methotrexate, which can induce abortions, is also commonly prescribed for millions of people with rheumatoid arthritis (RA), lupus, Crohn’s disease, and other conditions.
“In many states, such as Alabama, Arkansas, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Montana, Oklahoma, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, and Virginia, methotrexate is specifically mentioned in state laws and regulations related to abortion care services,” APhA said. “Due to the lack of guidance in interpreting laws in many states, pharmacists are unsure of the liability they would face in dispensing methotrexate, despite it being used for RA.”
As Common Dreams reported in July, an eight-year-old girl in Houston was refused the medication for her juvenile arthritis, and other people across the country were being told by healthcare providers they needed to prove they were not pregnant before obtaining the medication.
At least two patients with cancer in Ohio were prevented from getting chemotherapy before a judge blocked the state’s abortion ban last month; they were required to terminate their pregnancies before they could receive treatment, but had to leave their home state in order to get abortion care, having missed the ban’s cut-off of six weeks of pregnancy—before many people even know they’re pregnant.
The report states that all five of the professional associations Warren contacted expressed concern that abortion bans and restrictions will worsen health inequities.
With patients seeking abortion forced to travel several states away in some cases, said the AMA, “access to legal reproductive care will be limited to those who have sufficient resources, circumstances, and financial means, thereby exacerbating health inequities by placing the heaviest burden on patients from Black, Hispanic, Indigenous, low-income, rural, and other historically disadvantaged communities that already face numerous structural and systemic barriers to accessing healthcare.”
Those who are most likely to be forced to continue pregnancies against their will are also from communities with increased rates of maternal mortality, the report states.
“This report confirms exactly what I feared: Republicans’ crusade against women’s reproductive freedoms has created national chaos that is a mortal threat to women’s health,” said Smith. “I am determined to push back against these dangerous Republican efforts, and I will not stop organizing and fighting until women’s freedoms can be exercised equally in all parts of this country.”
Graham and other Republicans have stated their plans to pass a 15-week nationwide abortion ban as soon as they’re able to—a law which will ensure that “this crisis will get worse,” Warren said.
“Efforts to ban abortion across the nation will continue to cause devastating harm to people and continue to exacerbate this country’s maternal health crises,” said PRH. “Under a federal ban the outcomes for pregnant people and people giving birth would be far worse.”
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Julia Conley is a Common Dreams staff writer.