Monday, May 8, 2023

New Report on Accessing Emergency Obstetrics Information in Oklahoma

A recent report was published on "Accessing Emergency Obstetrics Information as a Prospective Prenatal Patient in Post-Roe Oklahoma." The report was jointly authored by Physicians for Human Rights (PHR), the Oklahoma Call for Reproductive Justice (OCRJ), and the Center for Reproductive Rights (CRR). The Executive Summary provides: 

In the wake of the 2022 U.S. Supreme Court decision in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization, Oklahoma residents are currently living under three overlapping and inconsistent state abortion bans that, if violated, impose severe civil and criminal penalties on health care providers. * * * Because the exceptions drafted by legislators are often conflicting and use non-medical terminology, they sow confusion around what kinds of care and procedures health care providers can legally offer when a pregnancy threatens a person’s health or life. These challenges, combined with the significant penalties under these bans, constitute a situation of “dual loyalty”: health professionals are forced to balance their obligation to provide ethical, high-quality medical care against the threat of legal and professional sanctions. The decision to provide emergency medical care risks becoming a legal question – determined by lawyers – rather than a question of clinical judgment and the duty of care to the patient – determined by health care professionals.


In light of the extensive anti-abortion legal framework newly in place in the state, Oklahoma offers an important insight into the potential effects of near-total abortion bans on pregnant patients and the clinicians who care for them. 


* * *


The results of this research are alarming. Not a single hospital in Oklahoma appeared to be able to articulate clear, consistent policies for emergency obstetric care that supported their clinicians’ ability to make decisions based solely on their clinical judgement and pregnant patients’ stated preferences and needs. Of the 34 out of 37 hospitals offering obstetric care across the state of Oklahoma that were reached, 65 percent (22 hospitals) were unable to provide information about procedures, policies, or support provided to doctors when the clinical decision is that it is necessary to terminate a pregnancy to save the life of a pregnant patient; only two hospitals described providing legal support for clinicians in such situations. In 14 cases (41 percent), hospital representatives provided unclear and/or incomplete answers about whether doctors require approval to perform a medically necessary abortion. Three hospitals indicated that they have policies for these situations but refused to share any information about them; four stated they have approval processes that clinicians must go through if they deem it necessary to terminate a pregnancy; and three stated that their hospitals do not provide abortions at all.

Abortion, Healthcare, Pregnancy, Reproductive Rights | Permalink


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