Opinion: Proposition 115 would limit safe, medically appropriate health care
Planned Parenthood of the Rocky Mountains vice president and medical director
I went into medicine to help people. I realize that’s not an earth-shattering claim coming from a doctor, but I knew it was what I wanted to do ever since I was a little girl. I still have the picture I drew for my mother when I was 5 years old: me as a nurse helping people in a hospital.
I was drawn to obstetrics and gynecology because I loved the idea of caring for patients throughout their reproductive lives. I looked forward to being part of their lives during the most joyous times, and I knew I would be there to support them as they faced the most difficult and heartbreaking decisions anyone has to make.
I’ve seen thousands of patents in my practice over the past 19 years — everything from picture-perfect pregnancies and healthy deliveries to the most unimaginable circumstances. However, I have never seen two patients — or two pregnancies — that have been the same. That’s not how pregnancy, or anything else in medicine for that matter, works. Every patient and every pregnancy are unique.
Once again in Colorado, we’re being asked to vote on a ballot measure that would ban abortion after 22 weeks and deny patients essential health care. Proposition 115 would force patients to continue a pregnancy with no exceptions for health or individual circumstances — even in cases of rape, incest, risks to their health or a lethal fetal diagnosis.
This ban is a violation of the oath I have been upholding since my medical school graduation 19 years ago. Abortion care is health care, and this ban will harm patients.
This ban would put uncompromising politics between me and my patients. It is a one-size-fits-all approach to medical care, and that is never appropriate in medicine.
One of the most important things to me as a physician is for patients to be able to make their own decisions when it comes to all aspects of their health care. I want my patients to make decisions that are right for them and for their families.
The proponents of Proposition 115 want you to believe this measure is reasonable, but there is nothing reasonable about a politically motivated cutoff point after which a patient can no longer access essential medical care.
Abortion later in pregnancy represents about 1% of all abortion care and is often sought because there is a fetal diagnosis that shows incompatibility with life. The first time many anomalies are detected is during the 20-week anatomy scan. After that, patients undergo a sequence of tests and appointments to determine fetal viability. Two weeks is nothing in terms of time when you’re gathering critical medical information, meeting with high-risk specialists and pediatric surgery specialists, and undergoing additional testing. It’s an agonizing and deeply emotional process, and individuals and their families need time to consider all of their options and determine what is best for them. To mandate an arbitrary cutoff is not only cruel, it’s bad health policy.
Patients have expressed profound gratitude that essential, safe abortions are available in Colorado after 22 weeks. I simply cannot imagine a Colorado in which we deny patients their own deeply personal health care choices and decisions.
I recently saw one of my patients, now the mother of two healthy children, whose first pregnancy was not at all how she envisioned her journey into motherhood. I’ll never forget the day she walked into my office to go over the 20-week ultrasound report, and we discussed that the fetus had an extreme cardiac anomaly. It was an agonizing experience for her and her family, and when she made the decision to have an abortion, we were able to care for her in Colorado. She then came back to me for her second and third pregnancies — both normal, uncomplicated deliveries. At her recent appointment, she asked if I heard about the latest abortion ban measure on the ballot. Over and over she said, “That is me. If this ban were in place when I went through my first pregnancy, I would have had no choice, no ability to make decisions for myself and my family and determine my path forward in life.”
We can never possibly envision every individual’s circumstances or walk in another person’s shoes when it comes to their decision to pursue abortion care. How can I help my patients if I do not have all of the safe, medically appropriate tools at my fingertips? We need to keep all medical options on the table for patients and health care providers. Vote “no” on Proposition 115.
Dr. Kristina Tocce, an OB-GYN, serves as vice president and medical director of Planned Parenthood of the Rocky Mountains.
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