Resolution 1635-A: Why We Need Safe and Legal Abortion Without Government Interference

The following is a testimony given before the New York City Council Committee on Women’s Issues in favor of Resolution 1635-A on January 18, 2013. The committee passed the resolution, and on January 23 the full council adopted it.

Good morning. My name is Dr. Anne Davis. I live in Washington Heights and practice medicine at Columbia University Medical Center. I am also the consulting medical director for Physicians for Reproductive Choice and Health (PRCH), a national physician-led advocacy organization based in New York City. PRCH uses evidence-based medicine to promote sound reproductive health policies. We believe in reproductive choice for everyone. I come before you to speak in favor of Proposed Resolution No. 1635-A, which commemorates the 40th anniversary of Roe v. Wade and calls upon the United States Congress to support funding for comprehensive reproductive health care.

As an abortion provider, I am grateful for Roe v. Wade every day. My experience of abortion is very up close, very real. I want to share a story that illustrates why we need safe and legal abortion without government interference. One morning I was paged at 7 AM. A woman pregnant at 22 weeks (5 and 1/2 months) had been admitted the night before with a previously uncomplicated, desired pregnancy. She had some bleeding, and she was being observed overnight. Suddenly, she experienced sharp pain in her abdomen and very heavy bleeding. When I was called, she had lost more than a quart of blood in about 30 minutes, enough that if it continued her life would be in danger. She had something called placental abruption, where the placenta unexpectedly separates from the uterus. 

I needed to get to the hospital as soon as possible and provide a second trimester abortion, the only treatment that would stop the bleeding and keep the patient safe. I took a cab and arrived within 10 minutes. The patient was pale, in pain, scared and bleeding. I told her we only had one option, to end the pregnancy. The procedure was successful, she recovered, she left the hospital alive and without needing an emergency hysterectomy, so she was able to have children in the future.

Roe has allowed abortion to become safe; it allowed me to save that patient’s life. It moved the procedure out of hiding into mainstream medicine where physicians could develop techniques, standards, research, and improve patient care. We still have a long way to go in the United States. Abortion is and always will be medically necessary, yet many of our legislatures and courts give equal time and weight to those who say that is not so, never mind the patient I described, and the daily experiences in hospitals like mine around the country.

In New York, we are fortunate not to have politicians interfering in the decision-making of women and their doctors. We do not have arbitrary waiting periods, invasive ultrasound requirements, or mandated biased counseling with false information about abortion. We are also fortunate that Medicaid covers abortion for women in New York State. Many other states deny comprehensive coverage of abortion as does the federal government.

I see women every day who rely on Medicaid for their health care. Many of them already have children, have low-paying jobs, and are struggling to get by. They know that they cannot have another child at this time and know that abortion is the right decision for them and their families. All women deserve health insurance that covers their health care needs and these women, because they live in New York, are able to get their abortions without delay. This should be our standard for women across the country. I worry about what happens to low-income women in other states who do not have insurance coverage for abortion. Unfortunately, the Affordable Care Act, which does so much to advance access to comprehensive health care for women, excluded abortion. 

I urge the New York City Council to adopt Proposed Resolution No. 1635-A, which also urges the United States Congress to support funding for comprehensive reproductive health care so that all women can lead full healthy lives and participate equally in society, regardless of their socio-economic level. 

Thank you for the opportunity to speak with you today.

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