State medical boards were instituted in the 19th century. According to the AMA Journal of Ethics, in addition to protecting patients from “incompetent, unprofessional, and improperly trained physicians,” medical boards “are the agencies that license medical doctors, investigate complaints, discipline physicians who violate the medical practice act, and refer physicians for evaluation and rehabilitation when appropriate.”
Most medical members are physicians themselves, and most are appointed by state governors—making them plum seats for bolstering political affiliation and spreading ideology.
“You get a little bit more nervous and anxious when you start to see the state passing regulations restricting medical care. …Then what’s the next step? The medical board saying, ‘Did you comply?’ And if not, now it’s going to come for your license,” Krishen says.
Mother Jones reports that eight out of the 10 medical board members in Ohio gave money to Republican lawmakers. Ohio bans abortion after six weeks’ gestation—calculated from the first day of the pregnant person’s last menstrual period—which is why a 10-year-old Ohioan who was a victim of sexual assault and became pregnant was forced to flee to neighboring Indiana for an abortion. Attorney General Dave Yost appeared on Fox News’ Jesse Watters Primetime and denied that the girl was raped or pregnant just days before her rapist confessed and turned himself in.
Catherine Romanos, a family doctor who has been providing abortion care in Ohio since 2013, tells Mother Jones, “The physicians who provide abortion care in Ohio are already targeted in a variety of ways for doing our job. … To feel like you’re working really hard to make sure you’re following the law perfectly, but the body that supplies your license maybe is biased in this way, or has board members who are clearly not neutral? It’s unsettling.”
Medical boards could actually protect physicians who perform abortions or provide restricted reproductive care. But as Mother Jones reports, the board has not yet made any public statement on the criminalization of doctors who intervene even in medical emergencies and the use of abortion.
In Texas, Gov. Greg Abbott has continued to battle against patients getting necessary emergency medical treatment—including abortion. According to Mother Jones, 40% of medical board members in Texas have donated at least $10,000 to Abbott, including one appointee who gave the governor $132,000 before his appointment, and has donated an additional $63,000 since.
“A lot of the board members will have been donors for the governor, and that’s how they got there,” Tim Weitz, a former general counsel for the Texas Medical Board, tells Mother Jones.