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Women deserve factual medical information, even about abortion care

Decisions about medical procedures and patient care should be left to clinicians and their patients – not to politicians. As a family physician, I understand this, and my goal is to provide each patient the individual time and attention they need to make the decision that is right for them.

Women deserve complete, accurate information about their health care. In my practice, I ensure that women receive the counseling and education that is relevant to their care, and document medical informed consent to show that the patient’s decision is voluntary and informed. Patients’ informed consent laws were developed by public health officials to make sure that people understand the medical treatments they receive.

Unfortunately, under the guise of caring about women’s health, abortion opponents in my state of Arizona have pushed our governor and legislators to mandate onerous requirements before a woman can terminate a pregnancy. Their version of medical information is based on ideology, not medical facts.

A central premise of their efforts is a false assertion that abortion care is dangerous. In fact, abortion care is one of the safest and most commonly provided medical procedures in the United States. Less than 0.3 percent of abortion patients experience a complication that requires hospitalization. The overall safety of abortion care is supported by a recent study by Dr. David Grimes and Dr. Elizabeth Raymond, released last month in the Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology, which found that abortion care is 14 times safer than childbirth.

This careful and comprehensive analysis was based on the most recent U.S. national data and a review of research from 1998 to 2005. The data show that pregnancy-related complications and illness are much more common in women who choose childbirth, compared to those who choose abortion care.

Every complication studied was more common among women having live births than among those choosing abortion care. Despite what the medicine shows, groups opposed to abortion care and to contraception have distorted medical informed consent policy to misinform women about the potential risks of abortion care. State policies like those that our legislators have been debating present medical findings in a way that is either misleading or patently wrong.

The bottom line: State policies undermine women’s health and decision-making if they do not give women a true portrayal of the medical information they need for the situation they are in.

Every woman deserves factual medical information whenever she is facing a decision about her pregnancy. We must make sure the information she gets provides the truth about her medical care. It is not right for our elected officials to take away my ability to provide the safe, high-quality evidence-based medicine that women need and deserve.

Dr. Gabrielle Goodrick, MD, is with Camelback Family Planning, Phoenix, Arizona.

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