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I strongly urge the Ohio Senate to oppose the "hearbeat bill." Lawmakers do not belong in the consultation room with me and my patients.

Written by Dr. Lisa Perriera for RH Reality Check. This diary is cross-posted; commenters wishing to engage directly with the author should do so at the original post.

Lisa Perriera, MD, MPH, gave this testimony live before  an Ohio Senate committee yesterday afternoon at a hearing of the so-called "heartbeat" bill, H.B. 125.

Good  afternoon. My name is Lisa Perriera and I am a board certified ob/gyn  working at an academic medical center in Cleveland.  I come today  representing myself and my patients.

I  strongly urge the Ohio Senate to oppose "the hearbeat bill." Lawmakers do not belong in the consultation room with me and my  patients.  As an OB/GYN, I offer the full spectrum of care for women.  I  deliver their babies, I screen them for cervical and breast cancer, and  sometimes I perform their abortions.  Abortion is a safe and legal  medical procedure that women deserve to be able to access here in Ohio.  This bill is effectively a ban on abortion, since the heartbeat is  usually detected between the 5th and 6th  week after the last menstrual period, often before a woman even  realizes that she is pregnant. Banning abortion has never stopped  abortion from happening; it has only made abortion unsafe or more  difficult to obtain. Worldwide 48 percent of abortions are unsafe. As a physician do not want to go back in time and see unsafe abortion in  Ohio.

I  also don’t want to tell any of my patients that I cannot help them. I  am particularly concerned about my patients with fetal anomalies, as  these are the patients that will be most adversely affected by this law. I have countless stories I can tell, but I’ll just share a couple.   Kristen and Steve were expecting their first child. Kristen had had two  miscarriages, so she and Steve were so excited when they made it to 20  weeks in this pregnancy. They were eagerly anticipating the anatomy  ultrasound, when they would find out their baby‘s gender. It was a girl!  But then the terrible news: her heart was malformed. Kristen and Steve  were referred immediately to a pediatric heart surgeon who told them  that their daughter would need several surgeries to have a chance of  surviving her heart defect, and that each operation posed a high risk of death. Even if the surgeries were successful, there was a  substantial chance that she would be severely disabled. Kristen and  Steve decided with great anguish that they could not put their little  girl through so much pain and suffering without a reasonable chance that  she would have a normal childhood. They chose to end the pregnancy.

Another  is the story of Jamie and David.  They already had one son Luke, and  were so thrilled to be pregnant again.  Jamie decided to have screening  tests performed to determine if her baby was at risk for any chromosomal  malformations.  She thought that since she was less than 35 there was a  low chance the screening test would be positive. Unfortunately she was  wrong.  The test showed that she was at risk for trisomy 18, a  chromosomal abnormality that is not compatible with life.  This  diagnosis was confirmed with an amniocentesis.  Jamie and David had to  decide if they would continue the pregnancy knowing that their baby girl  would die before birth or soon after, or if they would terminate this  very desired pregnancy.  After much soul searching they decided to  terminate the pregnancy.  They didn’t want to put Jamie through the  risks associated with delivery when there was no hope of a healthy baby.  Many people do not realize that abortion is actually safer than a full-term delivery. The risk of death from a first trimester abortion is 1  in a million, while the risk of death from childbirth is 6.6/100,000  live births.

They also didn’t want to go through the emotional agony of  watching their little girl die. While they wish they didn’t need to  have an abortion, they felt like they did what was best for themselves  and their baby girl Grace.  They were referred to me and I did their  procedure.  The bond we formed while I cared for them during that  pregnancy led them to switch care to me when they conceived their next  pregnancy.  They felt abandoned by their first OB/Gyn, and Jamie also  didn’t want to have to explain everything she had been through; I was  there with her and knew it all.  I was privileged to deliver Elise about  a year after Grace died. 

The  heartbeat bill would have forced Jamie and Kristen to continue their  pregnancies or required them to go to another state to have an abortion.   It may seem easy to you to pass a law that bans abortion once a  heartbeat is detected, but I’m the one that has to explain to my  patients why I can’t provide the care that they need and deserve.  I  urge you to please let me go on practicing medicine as I see fit.  Don’t  bring this bill to a vote. Let me continue to care for patients and  provide a safe and constitutionally legal medical procedure.  Thank you  for your time.

Originally posted to RH Reality Check on Wed Dec 14, 2011 at 03:15 PM PST.

Also republished by Abortion.

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