My Turn: We need compassionate obstetrical care

For the Monitor
Published: 1/18/2022 7:01:14 AM
Modified: 1/18/2022 7:00:09 AM

As physicians, we are committed to giving care that is best for our patients. Obstetricians and their patients experience difficult circumstances complicating pregnancies, which call for deep discernment and often heart-wrenching decisions. It has been reassuring to live and practice in New Hampshire where women have had the freedom to make personal, private medical decisions without government interference.

Unfortunately, effective Jan. 1, 2022, New Hampshire became one of five states to ban abortion at 24 weeks. Our state budget bill was passed having an attached amendment making abortions unlawful at the gestational age of 24 weeks giving only one exception: a complication threatening the life of the pregnant woman.

Gov. Sununu has defended this new ban on abortions by saying Massachusetts has the same law. Regrettably, his words are not true. New Hampshire’s law, in contrast to Massachusetts’, does not allow a termination of pregnancy where there is an intrauterine death or a lethal fetal diagnosis.

Also, Massachusetts has eliminated all criminal penalties related to abortion. In New Hampshire, under our new statute, caregivers are threatened with incarceration for up to 7 years. This restriction on the practice of obstetrics and the criminalization of physicians will surely jeopardize the recruitment of obstetricians to New Hampshire. We are already without obstetricians in many parts of our state.

In particular, this law will deter maternal-fetal medicine specialists (those who care for our high-risk obstetrical patients) from practicing here. For years, New Hampshire has had the second-lowest perinatal mortality rate in the country, in large part because of our specialists. Our new law stands to change that.

Finally, the amendment to our state budget includes a government mandate requiring that any woman seeking an abortion first must have an ultrasound. Massachusetts does not require this expensive and invasive procedure. In most cases, it is medically unnecessary.

Until now, a barrage of abortion bills has failed in New Hampshire because the majority of our lawmakers realize they know nothing of a woman’s life circumstances and should have no voice in her care, especially when it comes to pregnancy.

Our governor and legislators should know that this abortion ban is tragically absurd when it subjects women to carrying a dead baby or a fetus with a lethal diagnosis until they labor spontaneously.

Let’s not substitute politics for knowledge-based and compassionate obstetrical care.

(Oge Young is a retired OB-GYN and past president of New Hampshire Medical Society.)

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