This morning as the Supreme Court of the United States was hearing oral arguments for June Medical Services v. Russo, a rally was held featuring advocates, patients, physicians who provide abortion care, and Congresspeople all sharing what’s at stake for abortion access in Louisiana and around the country.
The following are the remarks of Dr. Pooja Mehta, ob/gyn in Louisiana and Fellow with Physicians for Reproductive Health:
“I am so proud to be an obstetrician and gynecologist practicing in the beautiful and resilient state of Louisiana. I am honored to be here with you and with the brilliant people who are carrying this movement on the ground in my home state.
“I became an ob/gyn because I wanted to show up for people in their moments of need: with science and knowledge and empathy and skill. During the intimate moments of childbirth, cancer treatment, miscarriage, and more.
I am here today because lawmakers in Louisiana have gone too far; they are trying to meddle in the work of doctors like me.
“I am here today because lawmakers in Louisiana have gone too far; they are trying to meddle in the work of doctors like me. The people I serve face numerous obstacles and drive many miles to get to care that they need, care they cannot find elsewhere. Safe, kind, reliable care provided in freestanding clinics. This care does not require admitting privileges. As a doctor I can tell you that admitting privileges do not make abortion safer, they challenge access.
“Abortion in Louisiana is so safe that providers rarely have to send someone to an emergency room, much less admit them to a hospital. Hospitals may decline privileges to abortion providers for this reason, but also because of stigma against the very providers they are sending their own patients to in needed moments. Or because of fear of an increasingly complex set of rules and regulations around the provision of abortion.
“I am saying this as someone whose job it has been to advance quality and safety in care. We know that Louisiana has one of the highest maternal mortality rates in the country. We know that Black women are four times more likely than white women to die and that many of these deaths are preventable. This is unjust and we are working really hard in Louisiana to change this reality, together, inside and outside of hospitals.
“But some Louisiana lawmakers say they value the health of mothers, say they trust women– and continue to strip access to critical health care services away. They are talking out of both sides of their mouths. You either trust birthing people and their families to make decisions for themselves and build systems that support them, or you don’t. Abortion care is health care.
“This lawmaker goal of eliminating the number of providers who can safely perform an abortion is what is truly dangerous, and is already having a specific and alarming impact on the communities where I live and work.
“In fact, the courts have already upheld my medical opinion once: unnecessary requirements like admitting privileges will make health care even more difficult to access by taking skilled providers out of our communities. In Louisiana this will potentially leave us with just one remaining clinic in the state. This is dangerous.
“I call on the Supreme Court to not give in to this culture of fear, stigma, and misinformation, a culture that erodes in particular the rights of the disproportionately low-income, Black and brown, and trans/gender non-binary people who cannot buy themselves out of the impossible system we are creating. They shouldn’t have to.
Let’s honor the lived experiences of people across Louisiana, honor us ‘third party’ health care providers who will always use our voices to elevate the unheard needs of those we serve
“Let’s honor the lived experiences of people across Louisiana, honor us ‘third party’ health care providers who will always use our voices to elevate the unheard needs of those we serve, and to remember that politicians have no place in the relationship between patients and their health care providers.
“Thank you so much for your time, energy, and support. Onwards towards justice, safety, dignity, and health.”