Another Not So Safe HavenAmelie discusses the impacts of new state-level abortion laws, the deceptive practices of Crisis Pregnancy Centers, and the concerns of a pre-med student navigating these complexities.
In 2022, the Dobbs decision by the Supreme Court of the United States essentially left the decision of either restricting or protecting abortion care to each individual state. This has largely changed healthcare as we know it. It came into play earlier this month, when North Carolina legislators voted to pass a bill banning most abortions after 12 weeks— overriding the governor’s veto. I must admit, I do not think I truly understood the full impact of the Dobbs decision until listening to Professor Jolynn Dellinger, Dr. Bev Gray, and Dr. Jonas Swartz in their seminar on Privacy and Obstetrical Care in the Post-Dobbs World.
Dr. Swartz and Dr. Gray’s faces revealed for me, the weight the law has on physicians. It is crushing them. The clinic at Duke that has been providing safe abortions for fifteen years is no longer in code with the bill, which goes into effect July 1. There is not even time for anyone to try to right this wrong. Ironically, these abortion procedures are safer than even getting your wisdom teeth pulled. However, great lengths are being taken to restrict physicians from helping women.
Dr. Gray recommended everyone reads The Turnaway Study by Diana Foster, Ph.D. Coincidentally, I wrote my final paper for a US Health Policy class on this book last semester. I can attest to the power it holds and would certainly suggest it to anyone. The book essentially told the stories of women who were denied abortions for various reasons, and how it negatively affected their lives. Until now, North Carolina has served as a safe haven for many women in the southeast who want to terminate pregnancies. It was a state that was helping to minimize those occurrences. Now, doctors are going to have to turn away women who traveled for days trying to find access to healthcare. Disproportionately, these will be women of color.
If that is not horrifying enough, Dr. Swartz shared with us about Crisis Pregnancy Centers. These are businesses that disguise themselves as actual clinics. However, they can be run by anyone whose goal is to dissuade women from having abortions. These people often have no medical credibility. Basically, they have no idea what they are doing. In one instance, Dr. Swartz mentioned a clinic had been performing transvaginal ultrasounds on women without cleaning the instruments in between each use. So not only are women being deceived into thinking they are receiving medical examinations, but they are also being put at risk for sexually transmitted diseases. Other anecdotes he told were of women being told their pregnancy was further along than it was so they thought they could not legally have an abortion even though they could. Some were told it was earlier along so they thought they had some time before they needed to make a decision even though they did not have time. These people get away with this legally because they are exercising “free speech.” Truly, though, they are endangering the lives of women.
Possibly even more upsetting is that pro-life physicians and nurses sometimes work at these crisis pregnancy centers. They just do not do it under their license and do not get paid for it. Since it is volunteer work, they get in no legal trouble for lying to and endangering patients. This was like a knife to the stomach for me. I have always respected and looked up to physicians. I think it is because I saw them with a fire burning inside of them to help others. However, physicians that endanger and do not respect the wishes of their patients truly disgust me. I had to stay after and speak with Dr. Swartz because I just did not understand how that could possibly be true. I was speechless. How is it that when a person becomes a doctor, they take an oath at their medical school graduation and then abandon those oaths outside of business hours? It is disgraceful. They should not be able to pick and choose when to be a doctor. You either are one or you are not. Theirs is not a legacy I want to be a part of. I want to be of service to others, not to personal ulterior motives.
I am a pre-med student. Working in reproductive health has been on my mind for quite a while now. I hold these issues quite close to my heart, as I see myself in the shoes of our speakers years from now. But they are shoes I am scared to fill. Physicians are trapped in a tangled web right now because laws about medicine are being made without sufficient medical knowledge. How can you choose between helping the patient sitting in front of you or being prosecuted for breaking the law? Now, that is a decision physicians must make. At its core, the issue lies in the fact doctors are not being involved in creating laws that dictate medical practices. Because of that, it is almost difficult to picture where my cohort and I will fit into this abhorrent system. Hopefully, our generation will be the one to bridge the gap between science and legal power.
Amelie Finn, Huang Fellow ’26
Amelie is a first-year undergraduate from Houston, Texas intending to major in Neuroscience with a Global Health co-major on the pre-med track.