For the past seven years, I have committed my life to learning the practice of medicine. I specifically chose to practice in the field of obstetrics and gynecology. I work hard to build trusting relationships with my patients in order to partner with them through some of the happiest and most challenging times in their lives. Throughout medical school and residency, my training focused on how to provide patients with the best possible care based on medically accurate information and evidence. Yet, I find myself blocked from providing the best care to patients because of extreme political agendas that legally control what information patients can receive from their doctor.
Despite my rigorous training, policymakers — most without any health care background — dictate how I interact with my patients. Over the past decade, anti-abortion politicians have been using inflammatory, deceptive and cruel language to pass several laws that limit or ban abortion care. For example, I am required to provide false information to patients seeking an abortion based on a law passed in 1995 aimed to shame and dissuade people from having one.
Only two of the 132 elected leaders currently in the Wisconsin state Legislature have a health care background; none have attended medical school. This legislative session, these individuals deliberated over hundreds of policy proposals that will impact my patients. Unfortunately, the Legislature often relies on information provided by special interest groups in lieu of medical experts. This level of political interference is unacceptable. It threatens the sacred patient-physician relationship and prevents patients from receiving the best care available.
Despite our great political divides, we all generally aspire for a safe and healthy life, and to be free to define our path. We cannot attain this freedom if we cannot make decisions about our bodies, lives and futures. As an ob-gyn specializing in women’s health care, I appreciate the personal significance of the decision over whether or when to become a parent. In my view, patients thrive when they have freedom to make that decision without political interference. Freedom of choice builds communities where individual citizens can participate with dignity and equity.
The medical community agrees — once a woman decides to have an abortion, it should be safe, affordable and free from punishment or judgement. To ensure we as physicians can provide quality evidence-based care in Wisconsin, our state legislative leaders need to introduce and advance policy that affirms reproductive health as a fundamental right.
With the balance of the Supreme Court now turned against abortion rights, states like Illinois and Nevada have ramped up their efforts to pass laws that ensure abortion remains safe, available and legal, regardless of what happens on the federal level. If Roe v. Wade is overturned, then Wisconsin’s 1849 law criminalizing abortion takes precedent, and it becomes illegal for me as a doctor to provide the full range of reproductive health care options to my patients.
It’s time for our elected leaders to modernize our state’s laws to affirm Wisconsin will treat reproductive health care, including abortion, as health care — not as a criminal act. It’s time our representatives listen to health care professionals and secure a future in our state that safeguards abortion care, upholds basic rights and justice, and respects decision-making.
Dr. Emily Buttigieg is a third-year ob-gyn resident. This column reflects her personal views.
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