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More doctors are speaking out against abortion bans ahead of the 2022 midterm elections

Abortion rights are on the November ballot in five states.

An abortion bill that proposed doctors should implant an ectopic pregnancy into a woman’s uterus — a medical impossibility — was the breaking point for obstetrician Ajleeta Sangtani.

“It just made me so angry to think that someone who clearly had no knowledge about medicine, had no idea what they were talking about, had the power to propose that,” said Sangtani, who practices in Ann Arbor, Michigan. “The idea that someone who had a life-threatening pregnancy would be forced to undergo a procedure that’s not even medically possible and put their life at risk, was the first time I ever thought of a woman’s reproductive rights in more of a political sense.”

“As soon as the Dobbs decision was handed out, I think that was when I first realized that I had not only an obligation to speak out to protect the rights of women, but also as a physician that I had a voice that people would listen to,” she said.

“People are speaking out because the stakes have changed, is my sense,” said Cutler.

Century of stigma

“Stigma perpetuates itself, expectations of secrecy and silence is a huge part of stigma,” said Cutler. “The argument that by not talking about abortion we perpetuate the stigma is very compelling.”

Speaking out

“And some of us were able to say, you know what, I’m going for broke.”

Exceptions in bans like the Wisconsin law’s rely on the false premise, in her view, that there is some sort of easily identifiable point where a pregnancy turns life-threatening, one that doesn’t require a judgment call from the patient and a physician.

“When is the mother’s life in danger?” said Lyerly. “I can use my clinical judgment, after years of education, residency, and 10 years practicing. But is the Sheboygan DA, who is a lawyer, who is elected, going to see it the same way? Because he’s the one who has promised he is going to go after us.”

“I have surprisingly received little significant pushback in my community for speaking out,” she added. “I think women here are really getting it.”

For Sangtani, in Michigan, the key point she makes in speaking out is that her patients are real people forced to make devastating decisions during a pregnancy.

“These are real people. They are not the exceptional cases. We see them every day, facing real hard, choices,” she said. “We have seen patients come up from Ohio to Michigan because they had a pregnancy that to us was considered a nonviable pregnancy and life-threatening to the mother, where their provider felt like they would be prosecuted under the law now in Ohio for providing this healthcare. This is literally our day to day.”

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