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Yesterday, Georgia doctors held a panel discussion to speak on the dangers Gov. Brian Kemp’s extreme abortion ban poses to our health care system, health care providers, and their ability to care for patients seeking urgent, lifesaving reproductive care. With Kemp’s extreme abortion ban in effect, and as Republican leaders refuse to answer questions on how it will be enforced, the group of doctors discussed how the governor’s ban:
Watch and download full high-resolution footage and photos of the full panel conversation and video clips of powerful moments.
Highlights From the Panel Discussion:
“We know that individuals who are having an abortion, especially a medication abortion, that looks very similar to individuals or who are having a miscarriage. If somebody is coming in in the midst of a miscarriage, there still might be detectable fetal cardiac activity, even though this is an inevitable miscarriage, meaning that almost all of the pregnancy is outside of the uterus, or coming outside the uterus, and we know that this can’t possibly go to viability — and so we, under this law, are really unable to take care of those patients,” said Dr. Megan Cohen, MD, MPH, OB/GYN. “There are cases in the United States where people have been criminalized and actually sentenced for having a miscarriage. And the medications that we use to treat on miscarriage are exactly the same medications that we would use for medication abortion — so not only is it going to delay people coming in, but it’s also going to probably restrict our ability to treat people who are in the midst of a miscarriage even if there isn’t cardiac activity, because of pharmacists not wanting to give out Mifepristone or Misoprostol, which are those same medicines that are standard of care actually to treat a miscarriage as well.”
“My patients are really terrified to get pregnant. They are afraid that if they get pregnant, they might have a miscarriage and then they will be stuck in this awkward position of — am I going to be able to get adequate care for this? Am I going to be faced with someone questioning whether I actually had a miscarriage or, you know, did I do something to myself? And so I have patients who are desperately trying to get pregnant, and want to get pregnant, but they’re terrified to do so because of this dangerous new law,” said Dr. Kelly Coffman, MD, MPH Reproductive and Forensic Psychiatrist and candidate for Georgia State House. “From the psychiatric perspective, mental health problems are already a leading cause of maternal mortality, especially in the age group of twenty-five and younger, and I’m expecting that that will just increase, so women will be left in this situation where they feel hopeless – they’re stuck with a pregnancy that maybe was unintended, that they may not have adequate social support, and I am worried that we’re going to see a huge increase in depression, anxiety, and especially suicide, and what that’s going to do to us? I think it’s going to shift the landscape in terms of maternal mortality in a whole new way that is just not even predictable.”
“The delay in care potentially that could happen, while either patients presenting to the ER having a delay in care, or once they’re there, our ability to be able to manage them and figuring out appropriate management in that scenario — we know what evidence-based treatments we can use, but with these laws and these restrictions, it may limit what we know good medicine to be. And we may have to have alternatives and we may have to even sometimes delay treatment to ensure that what we’re doing is appropriate in this situation,” said Dr. Tiffany Hailstorks, MD, MPH, Georgia OB/GYN, and member of Atlanta Reproductive Justice Commission. “With those delays, we’re gonna see complications from miscarriage, right? You’re gonna see people that are going to present with hemorrhage or infection because they’re just so worried about coming in. We know the treatment in terms of medication, abortion treatment and miscarriage management, it is the exact same thing. And so people are feeling worried, will they be stigmatized? Or thought that they are in fact having an abortion, when in fact they are having a miscarriage? And so I think that it’s going to be detrimental.”
“Our ER physicians are going to be really concerned, often they’re the first line of defense, especially in rural Georgia, where they usually are the ones managing and this law puts them at risk as well. I think there’s going to be a lot of concern and desire to — to not treat because of fear of prosecution. I think the other thing is that where this comes up is in pregnancy complications,” said Dr. Megan Cohen, MD, MPH, OB/GYN. “You know, pregnancy can be beautiful, so wonderful, if everything goes very well, but it can also be very complicated. We have people who will come in, like, fifteen or sixteen weeks with their water broken, where it’s sort of a miscarriage in process. We know that this pregnancy again is not viable, but really our hands are tied. These people are at risk of infection like sepsis, death if we don’t intervene, but with the laws, it’s really difficult for us to intervene until it’s very late.”
“What we’ve heard most clearly tonight is that Governor Kemp’s extreme abortion ban is going to hurt patients, and it’s going to hurt healthcare providers, and it’s going to hurt hospitals. This is going to make Georgia a sicker place to live and a sicker place to raise a family,” said State Senator Dr. Michelle Au, MD, MPH. “All of us are trained to take care of patients. We’ve trained many, many years, in order to do this. And it takes a lot of time and skill to be able to make these really critical decisions and take into account that every patient is different. And every clinical decision is tailored to what their goals are and what they need, and what their family and them want — and our goal is to listen to them, and I think there’s no role for politicians involved in that decision.”
Watch and download full high-resolution footage of the full panel conversation and video clips of powerful moments here.
On the impact of Kemp’s restrictive abortion ban taking effect immediately:
“Because it was immediate, there were definitely cancellations, which that first week was really hard and really tough to be able to tell patients that may have called at the beginning of the week to make the appointment, and at the day of the appointment, that we can no longer offer this because it’s no longer legal in our state. That was very tough and a lot of patients broke down in my office with me and so it’s, it’s hard. So yes, we’re definitely figuring out ways to revamp our clinical flow,” said Dr. Tiffany Hailstorks, MD, MPH, Georgia OB/GYN, and member of Atlanta Reproductive Justice Commission.
“Even when we tried to revamp some of the protocols that were pre-screening patients, to try to hopefully have them be under six weeks, we’re still turning people away because ultimately they are over six weeks. It’s very difficult to know that you’re pregnant at six weeks — that’s essentially you missed your period, maybe a week and a half ago. And many of these people are coming from Texas, we’ve had people crossing state lines, trying to get their procedure here, and they’re just right over the edge and that’s been devastating,” said Dr. Megan Cohen, MD, MPH, OB/GYN.
“There are still so many unknowns — it’s very anxiety provoking. There’s just this kind of cloud of anxiety hanging over everyone’s head until we figure out what our approach is going to be. I think there’s also a lot of tension building within the medical community about, who’s going to be the first one to be prosecuted and what’s gonna happen, what will be the outcome of that and so I think it’s we’re feeling that anxiety on both sides, the patient side and the physician side — and it’s it’s just very uncomfortable,” said Dr. Kelly Coffman, MD, MPH Reproductive and Forensic Psychiatrist and candidate for Georgia State House.
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