Red states and cancer care
The health care of women and girls is threatened in red states (i.e. those with Republican party leadership)
The anti-abortion policies of red states are damaging the health care of women and girls with cancer.
“Legislation that restricts reproductive rights is affecting cancer care”, according to Dr. Karen E. Knudsen, CEO of the American Cancer Society.
Up to 1 in 1,000 pregnant U.S. women receive a cancer diagnosis each year.
Patients in states with anti-abortion laws may face challenges accessing radiation therapy, chemotherapy or other treatments that may affect fetal development and cause miscarriage.
“We’re hearing stories where people are being turned away from medical care because they’re pregnant and the physician fears they’re going to be criminalized for providing the care this individual needs. . . If the threat is that by delivering this care and doing what’s right for the patient, you’re going to be taken to jail and taken away from your own kids or family? That’s terrifying.” Dr. Katherine Van Loon, Associate professor and oncologist at the University of California San Francisco.
Pregnancy itself, due to increased estrogen levels, may stimulate breast cancer growth; if so, abortion may be recommended as a cancer treatment.
Some types of cancer grow so quickly that even traveling out of state to obtain an abortion might create life-threatening delays in care.
“I focus on treating acute leukemias. Sometimes patients need to start treatment within a matter of hours or days and cannot wait weeks or months until they are past pregnancy complications from their disease.” Alice S. Mims, MD, Acute Leukemia/Myeloid Malignancies Section Head at Ohio State University.
Some doctors and hospitals won't even discuss abortion because they are afraid of criminal penalties.
“That sacred relationship between the patient and the physician is being violated by these antiabortion laws . . . The biggest thing here is interference with who's making medical decisions and deciding what's best for the patient.” Dr. Banu Symington, Hematologist / Oncologist.
Some physicians in red states cannot practice medicine appropriately, even if their female patients are not pregnant. This is because effective treatments for cancer, autoimmune disorders such as rheumatoid arthritis and other diseases are not available in these states because of concern about their possible use in abortions or liability if patients become pregnant.
“Physicians have been placed in an impossible situation — trying to meet their ethical duties to place patient health and well-being first, while attempting to comply with vague, restrictive, complex, and conflicting state laws that interfere in the practice of medicine and jeopardize the health of patients”. Jack Resneck Jr., President of the American Medical Association.
What should physicians, girls and women in red states do in response to these threats to their health care?
Move. Live in a blue, pro-choice state where physicians can practice medicine appropriately and women and girls can get the dignity and health care that they deserve.
Fight. Become politically active, try to change the laws of the red states and elect public officials who respect the health and dignity of girls and women and allow physicians to practice medicine according to the standards of our profession.
Prepare. If not ready to move or fight, at least pay more attention to the news and start to plan where to go and what conditions might cause you to move or to become more politically active.
Nothing. You can hope that these dangers are not real, or are real but will lessen over time, or that they will not affect you or you are just too busy to do anything about it. I do not recommend this option.
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