Today, Physicians for Reproductive Health Fellow and ob/gyn in Georgia Dr. Nisha Verma is testifying before the Senate Judiciary Committee in a hearing titled “The Assault on Reproductive Rights in a Post-Dobbs America.”
Dr. Verma is testifying to share the difficulties of providing comprehensive reproductive health care as states continue to pass abortion restrictions.
The following is from Dr. Nisha Verma’s written statement submitted to the Committee:
“My name is Dr. Nisha Verma and I use she/her pronouns. I am a board-certified, fellowship trained, obstetrician and gynecologist providing full-spectrum reproductive health care – that means I do everything from cancer screenings to delivering babies to supporting people as they decide to continue or end a pregnancy. I am a fellow with Physicians for Reproductive Health, a network of physicians across the country working to improve access to comprehensive reproductive health care. I am also a proud Southerner – I was born and raised in North Carolina, I currently provide care in Georgia, and I have lived in the Southeast for most of my life.
“I decided to stay in Georgia after the Supreme Court overturned the constitutional right to abortion care and Georgia enacted a law that bans most abortions in our state last year. I decided to stay – knowing Georgia’s law threatened to make me a criminal for providing life-saving care to my patients – because I made a commitment when I became a doctor to serve my home and my community in the South.
Because of a law that is not based in medicine or science, I am forced to turn away patients that I know how to care for.
“But every day, Georgia’s law forces me to grapple with impossible situations where state laws directly violate the medical expertise I gained through years of training and the oath I took to provide the best care to my patients. Because of a law that is not based in medicine or science, I am forced to turn away patients that I know how to care for. I have had adolescents with chronic medical conditions that make their pregnancies very high-risk, women with irregular periods who don’t realize they are pregnant until after six weeks, and couples with highly desired pregnancies who receive a terrible diagnosis of a fetal anomaly, cry when they learn they can’t receive their abortion in our state, and beg me to help them. Imagine looking someone in the eye and saying – I have all the skills and the tools to care for you, but our state’s politicians have told me I can’t. Imagine having to tell someone – you are sick, but not sick enough to receive care in our state based on our law’s very narrow exceptions.
“One of my patients, I’ll call her M, gave me permission to share her story with you all today, and her experience brings the findings of this study to life. She struggled with infertility, and she and her husband were thrilled to see the positive pregnancy test after their final embryo transfer. At first, everything was going smoothly. Then, at 17 weeks, when there was no chance of her baby ever developing lungs that would allow it to live outside of her, her water broke. She went to the hospital, but because her baby still had a heartbeat, her doctors couldn’t do anything to help her. Instead, she had to wait to get sick – to start bleeding heavily, or develop an infection of her uterus that could spread into her bloodstream. M shared with me that – ‘to be denied the basic medical care I needed, to be told that I must first be at risk of dying, to be forced to relive losing my baby every day for 5 days because of Georgia’s law, the trauma of that on top of my loss is devastating.’ She told me her baby’s name was Ezekiel Charles, which means ‘God’s strength,’ and that she would miss him at every major and minor milestone he would have had in his life.
“I stayed in Georgia to provide care for people in my community, but my heart breaks every day for my patients like M as I bear witness to the pain they have to carry because of these restrictions on abortion access.
“The reality is, as a provider of comprehensive reproductive health care, I know first-hand that patients are capable of making complex, thoughtful decisions about their health and lives. Patients decide to continue or to end pregnancies for many reasons, and it should not be up to me or the government to decide which of those reasons are valid.”