It’s High Time for Medics to Stand Up and Resist Unjust Abortion Laws

If there’s a silver lining to the dark cloud that is the reversal of Roe v. Wade by the Supreme Court, it’s this: It’s high time doctors claimed their power and actively opposed abortion bans. More than a year has passed since this controversial verdict, which is not supported by most Americans, was handed down, giving states the right to control abortion laws. In response, we’ve seen a surge of 14 states outlawing abortion, and six others imposing even stricter rules on this crucial aspect of reproductive healthcare. It’s a bleak picture, considering these states already have some of the worst policies supporting mothers and their children, and that the U.S. tops the charts in maternal and infant mortality rates in the developed world.

Even more surprising is the noticeable absence of organized protest, even from groups historically dedicated to comprehensive reproductive healthcare. In fact, there are criticisms that Planned Parenthood is focusing more on self-preservation and legally challenging these abortion laws, a strategy that seems unlikely to yield significant results given the young, conservative Supreme Court.

To combat this dire state of affairs, academic medical centers must commit to providing comprehensive reproductive health care, including abortions, regardless of state laws. And here’s why they should spearhead this civil disobedience:

  1. Academic medical centers are the training grounds for future doctors.
  2. These institutions share a dedication to providing sound, science-backed, ethical care rooted in human rights and the sanctity of the doctor-patient relationship.
  3. They have ample physicians who support the cause, along with legal backing and a communications infrastructure that can mobilize and implement such a protest quickly.

The draconian changes in abortion law are primarily driven by Republican men. These laws disproportionately affect women, particularly young women, women of color, and those of low socioeconomic status. Some laws even call for the prosecution of those who’ve had an abortion or helped someone get one. Considering about a quarter of women have had an abortion by the age of 45, and a fifth of men have been involved in an abortion situation, we’re talking about a large group of affected individuals.

Not only have the Dobbs ruling and similar abortion restrictions complicated the handling of ectopic pregnancies, miscarriages, and in vitro fertilization, but they’ve also contributed to the exodus of physicians from these states. Furthermore, the number of medical students applying for OB/GYN training programs in these states has declined significantly.

In an era where conservative leaders have attempted to undermine the medical profession, Dobbs couldn’t have come at a worse time. This situation demands civil disobedience from physicians, particularly those in academic medical centers. While it’s important to continue supporting those who strive to provide abortions despite the odds, and those fighting for access to comprehensive reproductive health care through legislation and the courts, it’s clear that direct civil disobedience is the only strategy that could immediately put a halt to Dobbs.

Academic medical centers across the U.S. should stand firm in their commitment to providing comprehensive reproductive healthcare, including abortions, irrespective of state laws. This commitment, backed by Deans and Department Chairs, could be facilitated within a week, given the strong formal and informal links between institutional leaders. It’s about time that the medical community steps up fulfills its responsibilities, and takes direct action to save countless lives while maintaining the integrity and independence of the medical profession. The time for waiting is over; the time for action is now.