Georgia doctor testifies for White House reproductive access task force
LISTEN: Seventeen states, including Georgia, have banned or further restricted abortion access in the hundred days since the overturning of Roe v. Wade. Stakeholders met at the White House Tuesday to hear testimony from physicians about the aftermath. GPB’s Sofi Gratas reports.
The Reproductive Health Care Access task force first met in August under guidance from President Biden and Vice President Harris to craft federal responses to “protect access to reproductive health care services and defend women’s fundamental rights.” The task force is co-chaired by the Secretary of Health and Human Services, Xavier Becerra, and the Director of the White House Gender Policy Council, Jennifer Klein.
In the task force's second meeting Tuesday, four physicians from different states testified about their experiences since the dismantling of Roe v. Wade.
Nisha Verma is an obstetrician-gynecologist from Atlanta, where Georgia’s ban prohibits abortions past six weeks of pregnancy.
“Imagine looking someone in the eye and saying, 'I have all the skills and the tools to help you — but our state's politicians have told me I can't,'" Verma said.
Other physicians from Wisconsin and Washington, D.C., shared similar experiences.
OB-GYN Sadia Haider from Illinois, where abortion is still legal, testified about challenges faced by states with few limits.
“Patients from in-state and out-of-state are experiencing delays in care due to longer wait times delaying procedures till later in their pregnancy,” Haider said.
For people with high-risk pregnancies, longer wait times can lead to life-threatening complications.
Abortion bans have also put a strain on reproductive health care workers, who have had to navigate legal language built without medical guidance.
In Georgia, the state’s so-called “heartbeat bill” bans abortions past six weeks of pregnancy. But the law, House Bill 481, uses language that medical professionals claim is inaccurate. At six weeks, an ultrasound can detect electrical activity from an embryo, but not a true heartbeat.
Verma said language like that used in HB 481 — also used in anti-abortion legislation passed in Texas and Ohio — is used to “elicit an emotional response” but has no medical standing.
In the latest guidance from the Biden administration to protect abortion access nationwide, the Department of Education is targeting universities, reiterating Title IX requirements to protect students from pregnancy-based discrimination.
The Department of Health and Human Services is also infusing $6 million in grants to family planning and preventative health services programs under Title X with the president’s support.
These orders come after the president’s initial response to the Dobbs v. Mississippi decision, which included executive orders to protect patient privacy, defend the right to travel for abortion care and protect abortion in the case of emergency medical care.