INDIANAPOLIS — As the state of Indiana prepares to decide the fate of abortion access in the state two practicing OBGYNs in the state are sharing their thoughts on the debate. Both have differing viewpoints on the controversial topic.
Dr. Christina Francis is part of the organization called The American Association of Pro-Life Obstetricians and Gynecologists. She and the organization feel that abortion is never the best choice medically for a woman unless her life is in danger.
"We are pro-life of the mom just as much as we are pro-life for the baby,” Dr. Francis, an OBGYN and CEO-elect of AAPLOG said. “So, we have to save who we can save. If we can save them both, then that's our duty as physicians, if we can't, then we should intervene to save who we can."
According to Dr. Francis women who have surgical abortions are more likely to have a pre-term birth in future pregnancies. She also says women who have abortions often have adverse mental health outcomes.
"Because of these adverse effects that we see on women of elective abortion, and really no health benefits, again, of elective abortion, this informs our position as pro-life physicians,” Dr. Francis said. “As we talk with our patients about what their best options are for their health, both in the immediate to end in the long term, abortion simply is not the best option for our patients."
In Dr. Francis’s medical opinion, she feel even in cases of rape or incest, getting an abortion isn’t always the best option for a woman’s health. She says abortion is not a treatment for trauma. When she was asked about the case of the 10-year-old girl who came to Indiana to get an abortion, she said the only way she would have recommended an abortion is if it was medically necessary.
“We could certainly intervene at a point where we felt like her life was potentially going to be under threat because of the pregnancy,” Dr. Francis said. “But, if you look at the data, the complication rates, the medical complication rates of pregnancy in young adolescents, I think is, much smaller than what people would imagine. They can actually carry to term oftentimes.
Dr. Katie McHugh is a pro-abortion rights OBGYN and abortion provider in Indiana. She disagrees with Dr. Francis. She says there are also negative effects on a women's mental health if they have to go through with a pregnancy that they didn't want.
"So, when we talk about trauma as it relates to pregnancy, pregnancy itself and parenting can be traumatic,” Dr. McHugh said. “Not only for the person who is pregnant but also for the potential children."
Dr. McHugh feels that doctors, when giving medical advice, ultimately need to let the patient make their own decisions.
“What is important is that we don't force our opinions on other people,” Dr. McHugh said. “So, I would never force someone to choose abortion even if I thought it was medically the safest choice. It is not my business, and it is not my decision.”
Both doctors also disagree on the safety of medical abortions. Medical abortions occur through medication that is prescribed by a doctor. Women typically experience the abortion at home as it mirrors the symptoms of a miscarriage. However, it also has similar symptoms as ectopic pregnancy. Some pro-abortion rights groups are advocating for the pills to be mailed to patients. Dr. Francis says a policy like that could be dangerous to women.
“If they are not seen in person, they cannot be adequately screened for ectopic pregnancy which occurs in one in 50 pregnancies,” Dr. Francis said. “The problem with that is that the symptoms of a rupturing ectopic pregnancy are vaginal bleeding and abdominal pain. Those are the same symptoms that women have when they're undergoing a medication abortion."
Dr. Francis also finds this concerning because most women can’t tell how far long, they are in their pregnancies. She said that can be dangerous because the abortion pill only works up to a certain point in pregnancy. If the abortion pill fails, Dr. Francis says women will have to get a surgical abortion to finish the procedure.
However, Dr. McHugh says using abortion pills is safe. She is more concerned that if any type of abortion ban becomes law in Indiana that patients will be scared to go to the hospital.
"We have studied for decades, stating how safe this medication and the regimen of medications that we use for medication abortion really are,” Dr. McHugh said. “Especially with the introduction of Mifepristone, which is the first pill in the medication abortion. It increases the effectiveness and the safety by a significant amount. “
Dr. McHugh says when clinics provide the abortion bill in person, they typically do it if a woman is between 10 and 11 weeks, simply because, after that fact, it does become slightly less effective.
She added that since Roe Vs. Wade was overturned there has been an influx of people coming to her clinic seeking abortion access. She says patients are coming from both Indiana and out of state.
The Indiana General assembly will reconvene on July 25 to vote on the future of abortion access. Senate Republicans are set to release their schedule for the special session on Wednesday, July 20.