Valley News – Column: NH’s abortion ban puts politics ahead of healthcare
Published: 06/20/2021 22:00:03
Modified: 06/20/2021 22:00:06
I read with interest your article on the New Hampshire Budget Termination Issue (“Doctors Call for Budget Veto on Abortion Ban,” June 16). Your article is factual, but in my opinion lacks the real points that need to be emphasized.
When the term “abortion” is mentioned, many people have a knee-jerk reaction one way or the other without thinking about health care for women and children and, in the case of this problem, women and children. from New Hampshire and Vermont. All of this discussion and the proposed actions put politics ahead of the best health care for our citizens.
The provision proposes to criminalize abortions after 24 weeks, which is rare in New Hampshire and Vermont except when the mother’s life is threatened. It makes a good impression on a certain group of politicians in the eyes of other abortion opponents across the country while showing no understanding of how we have achieved, for women and newborns in our region, the best results in the United States for many years in developing a system of antenatal and neonatal care with the collaboration of Dartmouth-Hitchcock Medical Center, the University of Vermont and all hospitals with obstetric services in the twin states.
The success of this excellent but fragile system depends on the ability to recruit and retain experts in the subspecialty areas of maternal-fetal medicine and neonatology and, to a large extent, well-trained OB / GYN general practitioners, nurse practitioners and nurse midwives. There are already few of us in these two subspecialty fields, and recruitment in the future would be made much more difficult with the introduction of the draconian measures threatened for healthcare providers facing some of the most difficult medical decisions there is. .
Thus, the provision accomplishes nothing while creating real challenges for our ability to maintain our excellent medical outcomes in the future.
Also, to clarify, “viability” and “24 weeks gestation” are not synonymous terms. The 24 week timeline assumes a perfect 28 day menstrual cycle for all women, which is not the case. Add to this the fact that many older women attempt pregnancy with or without IVF, further complicating the problem. Each intensive care nursery keeps its own data on its success in saving these very immature infants. These are tough decisions for specially trained medical experts. These are not decisions for politicians looking to score points and get votes.
Another factor to keep in mind is that it is becoming difficult to recruit GPs in Obstetrics and Gynecology across the country who will practice obstetrics long in their careers. Most new residency graduates will not consider going to smaller rural hospitals, and most want the availability of maternal-fetal medicine physicians and neonatologists in the area where they practice.
New Hampshire is supposed to be a smart, independent state. I hope that the governor, who claims to support reproductive rights and would consider running for national office, will have the strength to show his independence by considering the health care benefits of all women and children by putting his veto a budget that contains this dangerous provision.
Barry D. Smith, of Norwich, is Professor Emeritus of Obstetrics and Gynecology and President Emeritus of the Geisel School of Medicine in Dartmouth.