June 11, 2015

Politicians don’t know better than doctors and women | by Dr. Andre Huffmire


[box type=”info” style=”rounded”]DR. ANDRE HUFFMIRE is a family practice physician working in Albuquerque and Grants.[/box]

Imagine that you’ve scheduled an appointment with your doctor: you show up at the office, are ushered into the examining room, and wait to be seen. The door opens and, instead of your trusted family physician, in walks your state legislator. They tell you they are personally opposed to the procedure you are about to get and passed a law in the most recent legislative session banning it. Your doctor can now face a fine or lose their license if he or she provides you with the care you need.

This may sound extreme, but when politicians pass laws to ban or restrict access to medical procedures like abortion, they are inserting themselves into a sacred relationship between patient and doctor and disregarding a woman’s ability to make important reproductive healthcare decisions. We need to respect that relationship by keeping the personal, complex decision about abortion between a woman and her doctor.

As a family practitioner for the past 34 years, I have had the privilege of helping thousands of patients and families with their healthcare needs. One thing I’ve learned is that no two patients are the same. All of our bodies, our families, our lives, and our circumstances are unique. But as different as we are, we all want the same things from our healthcare: quality care, compassion, and privacy.

The advancement of abortion-related bills this past legislative session tried to put government where it doesn’t belong—in the doctor’s office. No less than four bills were introduced that attempted to restrict access to abortion in some way, including a ban on abortions later in pregnancy, a bill that would force young women to notify their parents before accessing a safe and legal abortion, and a measure that would have placed unnecessary regulations on clinics providing abortion care in an attempt to shut them down. All of these bills would compromise a doctor’s ability to provide quality, compassionate, private healthcare.

I do not want New Mexico to join the ranks of states that are passing extreme, out of touch and dangerous laws that interfere with a doctor’s ability to perform their job. Kansas recently banned the safest and most commonplace medical procedure women receive after having a miscarriage or an abortion in the second trimester. Arizona and Arkansas just passed a law requiring doctors lie to their patients by telling them they will be able to reverse a medical abortion very early in pregnancy. These attacks on access to safe and legal abortion are part of a disturbing national trend where politics trump medical evidence and lawmakers think they know better than women and doctors when it comes to making personal decisions to end a pregnancy. These laws are disrespectful to women and only contribute to the culture of stigma and shame that surrounds abortion.

Decisions about abortion do not belong in the legislature. The carefully thought out decision to have an abortion can only be made by a woman with her doctor. To propose otherwise is to callously disregard the complex, personal, and sometimes heartbreaking decisions a woman makes for her family. I care deeply about the health and well-being of my patients and know that a woman needs access to safe and legal healthcare for all aspects of pregnancy, including the decision to end one. The personal opinions of elected officials should not trump the experience and expertise of doctors when deciding that care.