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How Dobbs is restricting access to healthcare more broadly

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Doctors turn out to be less interested in working in jurisdictions where they can be arrested for performing safe medical procedures with the consent of their patients based on arbitrary and often vague laws:

The rush in conservative states to ban abortion after the overturn of Roe v. Wade is resulting in a startling consequence that abortion opponents may not have considered: fewer medical services available for all women living in those states.

Doctors are showing — through their words and actions — that they are reluctant to practice in places where making the best decision for a patient could result in huge fines or even a prison sentence. And when clinics that provide abortions close their doors, all the other services offered there also shut down, including regular exams, breast cancer screenings, and contraception.

The concern about repercussions for women’s health is being raised not just by abortion rights advocates. One recent warning comes from Jerome Adams, who served as surgeon general in the Trump administration and is now working on health equity issues at Purdue University in Indiana.

In a recent tweet thread, Adams wrote that “the tradeoff of a restricted access (and criminalizing doctors) only approach to decreasing abortions could end up being that you actually make pregnancy less safe for everyone, and increase infant and maternal mortality.”

An early indication of that impending medical “brain drain” came in February, when 76% of respondents in a survey of more than 2,000 current and future physicians say they would not even apply to work or train in states with abortion restrictions. “In other words,” wrote the study’s authors in an accompanying article, “many qualified candidates would no longer even consider working or training in more than half of U.S. states.”

Indeed, states with abortion bans saw a larger decline in medical school seniors applying for residency in 2023 compared with states without bans, according to a study from the Association of American Medical Colleges. While applications for OB-GYN residencies are down nationwide, the decrease in states with complete abortion bans was more than twice as large as those with no restrictions (10.5% vs. 5.2%).

That means fewer doctors to perform critical preventive care like Pap smears and screenings for sexually transmitted diseases, which can lead to infertility.

Care for pregnant women specifically is at risk, as hospitals in rural areas close maternity wards because they can’t find enough professionals to staff them — a problem that predated the abortion ruling but has only gotten worse since.

Not only forcing women to carry pregnancies to term, but denying some people access to medical care altogether? This is what Sam Alito calls a “win-win!” The dream of the Sebelius dissenters lives on.

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