Today, Dr. Nisha Verma, ob/gyn in Georgia and Fellow with Physicians for Reproductive Health is testifying before the House Committee of Energy and Commerce in a hearing titled Roe Reversal: The Impacts of Taking Away the Constitutional Right to an Abortion. She’s testifying alongside Renee Bracey Sherman, Leah Litman, Dr. Jack Resneck, and Paulina Guerrero. The following are from her remarks to the Committee:
“I am a board-certified, fellowship trained, obstetrician and gynecologist who provides full-spectrum reproductive health care. 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 and have lived in the Southeast for most of my life.
“Growing up, I saw first-hand the devastating impacts of restrictions on contraception and abortion care in the lives of real people – my friends, family, and the people in my community. They are the reason I am here before you today. I became a doctor and OBGYN because of my drive to take care of people without judgment throughout the course of their lives, regardless of their health care needs. For me, that commitment includes talking people through their first pap smears, delivering their babies, and supporting them as they decide to continue or to end a pregnancy.
“In this moment, I am terrified for my patients and my community. As a doctor in Georgia, I see firsthand the reality we’re in. Like many other states, Georgia has had multiple restrictions on abortion access for years, none of them based in medicine or science. One of these restrictions is a mandatory waiting period meaning patients must receive state-directed counseling, and then wait 24 hours before I can provide their needed abortion. I have to follow this law even though I know, based on the evidence, that waiting periods serve no medical purpose – they are intended to make abortion less accessible. This mandatory waiting period can only be waived in a medical emergency forcing me to question ‘how sick is sick enough?’
“Now, after the Supreme Court erased our constitutional right to abortion, we as doctors are forced to grapple with these impossible situations more and more often – situations where the laws of our state directly violate the medical expertise we gained through years of training and the oath we took to provide the best care for our patients.
“I understand that abortion care can be a complicated issue for many people, just like so many aspects of health care and life can be. But I am here today to tell you that abortion is necessary, compassionate, essential health care. It should not be singled out for exclusion or have additional administrative or financial burdens placed upon it.
“Bans and restrictions on abortion care have far-reaching consequences, both deepening existing inequities and worsening health outcomes. When abortion is difficult or impossible to access, complicated health conditions can worsen and even result in death. In Georgia, abortion is still legal, but HB 481, a law that would ban most abortions in the state, could go into effect in the coming months. This would undoubtedly worsen maternal outcomes in our region, forcing doctors to turn away patients they know how to care for.
“The reality is, as a provider of comprehensive reproductive health care, I know patients are capable of making complex, thoughtful decisions about their health and lives. It is unconscionable that any politician would try to prevent them from doing so.
“Despite the Supreme Court’s decision and efforts by politicians to create an unjust patchwork of abortion bans and restrictions, I am unwavering in my commitment to support people in my home and community in the South in whatever way I can. It shouldn’t have to be this way. People should be able to get care in their own communities, in a manner that is best for them, with people they trust. I urge you to listen to the stories of people who provide and access abortion care. I hope these stories help you understand that abortion care is not an isolated political issue, and to see how profoundly restrictions on abortion access harm all of our communities.”