Utah medical professionals support the right to legal abortion

Utah law removes women from their proper role as decision makers

Comprehensive reproductive health care includes abortion care. There is ample evidence that timely access to safe and legal abortion improves health outcomes, and barriers to access worsen outcomes. These harms have an especially severe impact on patients with fewer resources, which intensifies health care inequality.

Legislation that criminalizes abortion is an intrusion into the physician-patient relationship and into the practice of medicine. As medical professionals from across a wide variety of specialties, we recognize that the proposed Utah statutes simply do not account for the needs of patients and families as they navigate complicated situations, and that these laws remove women from their role as decision makers regarding their own health care.

We stand united in support of our women’s health colleagues, and affirm the position of all relevant national societies, including the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, the Society for Maternal-Fetal Medicine and the American Medical Association in their opposition this type of dangerous legislation.

Wayne Adams, M.D., radiology; Nathan Allred, M.D., internal medicine; Vilija Avizonis, M.D., radiation oncology; Adam Balls, M.D., emergency medicine; Melissa Brackmann, M.D., gynecologic oncology; Melissa Brown, M.D., obstetrics and gynecology; Matt Bryan, M.D., internal medicine; Amanda Cleveland, M.D., obstetrics and gynecology; Sean Collins, M.D., anesthesia; Megan Donohue, M.D., neurology; Robert Dood, M.D., gynecologic oncology; Nick Duncan, M.D., family medicine; Elisabeth Ferlic, M.D., urology; Celia Garner, M.D., internal medicine; Keri Gibson, M.D., obstetrics and gynecology; David Green, M.D., internal medicine; Harland Hayes, M.D., emergency medicine; Stephanie Henderson, M.D., obstetrics and gynecology; Hannele Laine, M.D., obstetrics and gynecology; Julie Lanphere, D.O., physical medicine and rehabilitation; Natalie Loewen, M.D., obstetrics and gynecology; Kathryn Maurer, M.D., gynecologic oncology; Chelsea Mutscheller, M.D., obstetrics and gynecology; Misha Pangasa, M.D., obstetrics and gynecology; Sara Jane Pieper, M.D., obstetrics and gynecology; Susie Rose, M.D., obstetrics and gynecology; Howard T. Sharp, M.D., obstetrics and gynecology; Alyson Shinn, D.O., obstetrics and gynecology; Emily Spivak, M.D., infectious diseases; Carolyn Swenson, M.D., urogynecology; Katherine Thomas, M.D., neurocritical care; David Turok, M.D., obstetrics and gynecology; Jennifer Van Horn, M.D., obstetrics and gynecology; Margaret Van Meter, M.D., hematology and oncology; Kristin Washburn, M.D., anesthesiology; Abby Watson, M.D., obstetrics and gynecology; Daniel J Young, N.P., family medicine nurse practitioner; Sarah H. Zarek, M.D., obstetrics and gynecology

Government should not reach into the patient-physician relationship

Recent Utah legislation regarding abortion sets a precedent which allows the government to dictate to its citizens what healthcare options are and are not available to them. In other words, a group of elected officials with no training in medicine will be able to decide what is best for you and your loved ones. However we feel as individuals about the ethics of abortion, we strongly oppose the unwelcome intrusion of elected bureaucrats into the patient-physician relationship. Patients should have access to the best medical treatments for their individual needs, not just the options that are deemed appropriate by non-expert politicians. We cannot allow this over-reach of government.

Catherine Bakewell, M.D., rheumatology; Alison DeSano, M.D., obstetrics and gynecology; Katherine Hayes, M.D., pediatric and adolescent gynecology; Steven R. Granger, M.D., trauma surgery; Eric Hu, M.D., radiology; John M. Jacobs, M.D., interventional neuroradiology; Jennifer Kaiser, M.D., obstetrics and gynecology; Logan McLean, M.D., radiology; Dylan Miller, M.D., pathology; Linh Moran, M.D., obstetrics and gynecology; David S. Morris, M.D., trauma surgery; Chase Petersen, M.D., obstetrics and gynecology; Rebecca Ponder, M.D., obstetrics and gynecology; Clark Rasmussen, M.D., general surgery; Jacqueline Rohrer, M.D., family medicine with obstetrics; Pamela A. Royer, M.D., obstetrics and gynecology; Juliana Simonetti, M.D., internal medicine, obesity medicine; Ryoma Tanaka, M.D., critical care; Chesley Wells, M.D., internal medicine; Karen Zempolich, M.D., gynecologic oncology

Practicing medicine involves a complex balance of priorities

As critical care doctors, we see people at their sickest. While pregnancy is usually uncomplicated, it carries risks, and we have seen the catastrophic health consequences in our intensive care units. The management of pregnancy and complications of pregnancy involves a complex balance of priorities, and sometimes decisions must be made quickly to avoid death or permanent disability.

These are health decisions that should never be forced on a woman by another individual or government. The involvement of the government in these deeply personal, difficult medical decisions threatens women’s lives, and the well-being of their families and our communities. It also opens the door to political and special interest interference in other areas of health care.

[Read more: Advocating for women’s reproductive rights was unthinkable in my 20s, Dr. Sarah Zarek says]

We believe politicians and special interest groups should not be allowed to limit any doctor’s ability to provide high quality evidence-based medical care, or to take away a patient’s ability to make decisions about their own health. A strong tradition of respect for an individual’s autonomy to make their own health care decisions is one of the best characteristics of the health care system in the United States. The Utah ban on abortion threatens the quality of care all people have come to expect in this country. We stand with our colleagues in women’s health in their effort to protect their patients and the integrity of our health care system as a whole.

Sarah J. Beesley, M.D.; Jennifer H. Edwards, M.D.; Michael J. Lanspa, M.D.; Lindsay M. Leither, D.O.; Emily Beck, M.D.; Erin Blackstock, M.D.; Denitza Blagev, M.D.; Jason Carr, M.D.; Meghan M. Cirulis, M.D.; Peter F. Crossno, M.D.; Nathan Dean, M.D.; Mark Dodson, M.D.; Colin K. Grissom, M.D.; David W. Guidry, M.D.; Daniel Gutteridge, M.D.; Kyle Henry, M.D.; Eliote Lynn Hirshberg, M.D.; Katie Jeans, M.D.; Daniel Knox, M.D.; Felix Leung, M.D.; Elizabeth A. Middleton, M.D.; Joseph Palatinus, M.D.; Bassel Saksouk, M.D.; Hildegard Smith, M.D.

All of the above are critical care physicians who practice in Utah.

Medical decisions are not ours to make

As pediatricians we have been bestowed a great honor and a unique perspective into the medical decisions that individuals and families make about their health care; from more mundane questions about which formula to choose, to the most difficult and complex health decisions such as whether or not to continue lifesaving treatment.

In our cumulative years of wrestling with these decisions, one principle has remained clear: It is not our decision to make.

We practice and believe our role as pediatricians is not to make decisions for families or for their children. Our role is to share knowledge and experience, and to help families make more informed decisions that are the most aligned with their ultimate wishes. Throughout medical school, residency and clinical practice it has remained true that it is not our personal beliefs that should guide medical care.

This is why we believe that access to safe and legal abortion should not be up to any legislator, and should remain the sole right of the patient, the family, or the pregnant person, always.

Roland P. Dimick, M.D.; Rachel Baar, M.D.; Sarah Becker, D.O.; Danielle Brady, M.D.; Mary Burton, M.D.; Kevin Havlik, M.D.; Hilary Hewes, M.D.; Laurie Hilyer, M.D.; Maija Holsti, M.D.; Carrie Johnson, M.D.; Susana Williams Keeshin, M.D.; Roni D. Lane, M.D.; Peter Lindgren, M.D.; Stephanie Merrill, M.D.; Jennifer O’Donohoe, M.D.; Renee Olesen, M.D.; Sandra A. Phillips, M.D.; Sydney Ryan, M.D.; Sharon Schriewer, M.D.; Paul Wirkus, M.D.

All of the above are pediatric physicians who practice in Utah.

Abortion is an issue of health care, not politics

The psychiatry community, aligned with the position of the American Psychiatric Association and American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, stands unified in affirming that abortion is an issue of health care, not politics.

Recent legislation dismantling safe access to abortion is dangerous and is likely to lead to negative maternal and infant outcomes, the ramifications of which are incomprehensible. Decades of research has clearly shown that denying access to abortion leads to significantly increased risk of negative mental health outcomes. People with severe mental illness, who are at higher risk for unintended pregnancies, will be disproportionately impacted by lack of access to safe healthcare.

Loss of agency over one’s body can inflict tremendous trauma. Pregnancy is a dangerous time in a person’s life, with increased risk of intimate partner violence and death. The choice to carry a pregnancy should remain a decision made by a patient in consultation with their physician. We support our patients in preserving their freedom to make their own healthcare decisions.

Carlie Benson, M.D.; Roxanne Bartel, M.D.; Jonathan Birnkrant, M.D.; Mary Burris, M.D.; Tyler Durns, M.D.; Thomas Gethin-Jones, M.D.; Paula Gibbs, M.D.; Kelly Godecke, M.D.; Alyssa Hickert, M.D.; Elizabeth Howell, M.D.; Jessica Howsley, M.D.; Kristi Kleinschmit, M.D.; Kalyani Samudra, M.D.; Mary Steinmann, M.D.; Michelle Vo, M.D.; Kamile Weischedel, M.D.

All of the above are psychiatrists who practice in Utah.

Nurse-midwives stand for informed choice in medical care

As nurse-midwives who provide health care throughout the state of Utah, we are committed to promoting the midwifery model of care. We strongly believe in advocating for informed choice, shared decision making and the right to self-determination. We also believe in equitable, ethical and accessible quality health care that promotes healing and health.

We support policy solutions that ensure all people have access to a full range of preventive, reproductive, and sexual health services. This includes advocating to keep abortion access unconditionally safe and legal for those we serve.

Further, the world’s major health and human rights organizations affirm that when individuals have full autonomy over their reproductive health, it promotes education and economic growth for themselves and their families, thus benefitting the entire community. We do not believe that our state legislators should make personal health care decisions for autonomous individuals, nor insert themselves in the relationship between patient and health care provider.

Angela Anderson, CNM; Melissa Boll, CNM; Dia Brooks, CNM; Jessica Ellis, CNM; Christi Elmore, CNM; Christy Francis, CNM; Lindsey German, CNM; Emily Hart Hayes, CNM; Stacy Hepner, CNM; Sarah Kidde, CNM; Sarah Nelson, CNM; Martie Nightingale, CNM; Vicki O’Neal, CNM; Abby Rizk, CNM; Erminia Martinez Santiago, CNM; Celeste Thomas, CNM

All of the above are certified nurse midwives who practice in Utah.

Reproductive health care decisions should not be made by government

As a community of reproductive endocrinology and infertility physicians focused on helping the people of Utah build their families, we collectively write to express sincere concern over the significant loss of reproductive liberties that have been proposed since the recent Dobbs decision and the overturn of Roe V. Wade.

Individual autonomy is a fundamental principle of medical ethics. Reproductive decision-making is personal, complicated and diverse. We quote Marcelle Cedars, M.D., current president of the American Society for Reproductive Medicine: “The idea that patients’ decisions about their own reproductive health — whether, when, with whom or if, to have a child -- are subject to the whims of politicians, and a vocal minority, is unacceptable. Likewise, our ability to offer treatments to patients using the most effective evidence-guided practices and techniques should not be curtailed by elected officials, or un-elected judges.”

Regulations and policies compromise the patient and health care provider relationship and interfere with individual decision-making, restricting access to medically accurate practices and procedures. Reproductive health decisions should be between patients and their doctors. We hope to see a future where Utahns continue to have personal autonomy and the right to make decisions about their own reproductive health care.

Jessie A. Dorais, M.D.; Shawn E. Gurtcheff, M.D.; Addison Alley, M.D.; Deirdre A. Conway, M.D.; Meredith Humphreys, M.D.; Ijeoma Iko, M.D.; Erica Johnstone, M.D.; Joseph Letourneau, M.D.; Megan Link, M.D.; Kristi Maas, M.D.; Lauren Verrilli, M.D.

All of the above are reproductive endocrinology and infertility physicians who practice in Utah.

We have a front row seat to the harm anti-abortion policies cause

Maternal fetal medicine physicians have dedicated our careers to helping individuals and families have the best pregnancy outcomes possible. Those of us practicing in Utah span the religious and political spectrum, yet find that we agree more than we disagree. This is especially true when it comes to policy decisions that affect patients in our care.

Abortion is one such issue. Although it has been politicized, it is fundamentally a medical question, not a political one. We have a front row seat to the harm anti-abortion policies cause, and it is substantial.

When someone undertakes a pregnancy, they increase their own risk of harm by an order of magnitude. These odds are exacerbated when complications arise, and those complications are myriad, complex, and unpredictable. Thus, we support our patients in having the freedom to make their own health decisions unencumbered by government ideology.

Cara Heuser, M.D.; Ade Adesomo, M.D.; Robert Andres, M.D.; Nathan Blue, M.D.; D. Ware Branch, M.D.; Ann Bruno, M.D.; Janice Byrne, M.D.; Heather Campbell, M.D.; Jeanette Carpenter, M.D.; Victoria Chase, M.D.; Erin Clark, M.D.; Carly Dahl, M.D.; Susan Dalton, M.D.; Michelle Debbink, M.D.; Brett Einerson, M.D.; Alexandra Eller, M.D.; M. Sean Esplin, M.D.; Julie Gainer, D.O.; Matthew Givens, M.D.; Ibrahim Hammad, M.D.; Jennifer Merriman, M.D.; Torri Metz, M.D.; Martha Monson, M.D.; Kimberly Moyle, M.D. Jessica Page, M.D.; T. Flint Porter, M.D.; Glenn Schemmer, M.D.; Rita Sharshiner, M.D.; Robert Silver, M.D.; Marcela Smid, M.D.; Amy Sullivan, M.D.; Lauren Theilen, M.D.

All of the above are maternal fetal medicine physicians who practice in Utah.

The views and opinions expressed in each of these letters are solely those of the authors.