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Why Is It So Important to Use My Voice as a Physician?

Mimi Zieman, MD speaks out for reproductive rights because it's "my duty to take the best care of my patients".

Why it’s so important to use my voice as a physician

November 3rd, 2022 was an unseasonably warm day in Washington D.C., but what struck me more than the hot sun shining on my white coat, was the unity, inspiration, and empowerment I felt standing with my healthcare colleagues in front of the U.S. Capitol.

This event was organized by a new organization formed after the Dobbs decision called Doctors for Abortion Access. Several of us had a turn at the microphone to say why we were there. I heard powerful stories from across the medical community. One Family Medicine physician spoke about her experience traveling between states to provide abortions. One young physician spoke as the president of the national union of medical residents, saying how training of physicians is negatively impacted by abortion bans. One OB/GYN described her devastating pregnancy complicated by a lethal fetal anomaly that required her to fly from Texas to another state for an abortion.

I was grateful for the opportunity to deliver these remarks:

I’m a board-certified OB/GYN from Atlanta Georgia, and I will fight every day to be a voice for women.

I didn’t go to medical school to become a physician. I went knowing I wanted to become an OB/GYN. Inspired by the fight for the Equal Rights Amendment, my goal was to take care of, and advocate for, women.

I’m also a first generation American. My father was the only person in his family to survive the Holocaust, and he instilled in me the importance of always speaking out for justice, human rights, and democracy.

Now, I’m speaking out not only for women and other people at risk of pregnancy, but also for my specialty—OB/GYN—which is under attack. If OB/GYNs decide not to practice in states with abortion bans because they risk fines, lawsuits, and incarceration, then everyone who needs specialized care—for conditions like fibroids, endometriosis, infertility—will suffer the consequences.

So will their families.

We are here, speaking out together—and speaking for those who cannot—because it is our duty to take the best care of our patients. We will not remain handcuffed by legislators with no medical expertise or understanding of the complexities of care.

Abortion bans cause us moral injury by violating our oaths to protect our patients’ autonomy and privacy. Abortion bans hamstring us from providing routine, life-saving pregnancy care. Miscarriage care. Abortion bans violate our oath to justice because care is based on which zip code someone resides in.

 

Abortion bans cause us moral injury by violating our oaths to protect our patients’ autonomy and privacy. Abortion bans hamstring us from providing routine, life-saving pregnancy care. Miscarriage care. Abortion bans violate our oath to… Click To Tweet

 

That’s why all major medical societies oppose these bans.

These bans are cruel. They are not stopping abortions, but they are harming and punishing women – for a situation – pregnancy – that requires male complicity.

That’s injustice based on gender.

Every day in Georgia, patients are in tears when denied an abortion in early pregnancy—typically around 6 weeks—or two weeks after a missed period.

The patient’s options are then—to continue her pregnancy in a state considered one of the most dangerous to be pregnant in. Where her risk of death is 2 times the national average, 3 times higher for Black women, and greater than 100 times more than if she could have gotten an abortion.

Or the patient could travel to another state at great financial cost, time cost, missed work cost, and cost to her children at home.

Or the patient could procure pills for a self-managed abortion, which is a safe procedure, but illegal in my state of Georgia and other states with restricted access.

When I hear the public debate the question – WHAT is an acceptable reason for an abortion – rape or incest – or medical issues -they are missing the point. The right to an abortion is the right of a person to know what is in their best interests. To know what is right for their body and their goals for self-determination. It is a personal, medical decision that our patients deserve to make no matter where they live. The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG) promotes abortion as a human right and an essential component of comprehensive, evidence-based healthcare.

 

The right to an abortion is the right of a person to know what is in their best interests. To know what is right for their body and their goals for self-determination. Click To Tweet

 

After Roe was overturned, I wrote a script called The Post-Roe Monologues, as another way to use my voice. (It’s composed of fictional characters based on interviews, research, and my experience as an OB/GYN.) I wrote it to reach people through storytelling as a way to increase understanding and compassion on this issue. To help people see that bans don’t only affect women. They affect everyone.

In a Post-Roe America, doctors must continue to find new ways to use our voices—like being here today.

As a physician, a daughter of immigrants, and as a mother who chose when to have my children, no one will silence me, or tie my hands with laws that prevent me from advocating for the evidence-based healthcare I was trained to deliver.

 

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