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Op/Ed: Indiana's abortion ban strips doctors of 'ability to provide evidence-based care'

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As physicians and obstetrician-gynecologists, we have one of the most sacred roles in the world: to use our knowledge, our hearts and our hands to provide compassionate care for our communities. We take this responsibility very seriously and do our best every day to honor the trust our patients have in us. But on Sept. 15, Indiana's state lawmakers stripped us of the ability to provide evidence-based, safe and trustworthy care. More importantly, they have stripped the people of Indiana of their rights to bodily autonomy and reproductive freedom.

Throughout the Indiana General Assembly special legislative session, the people of Indiana voiced their opposition to banning abortion in Indiana. We heard heart-wrenching stories from people and families who received safe, compassionate abortion care when they needed it, but now fear for their friends and neighbors who will be denied it. We heard from young women who are scared of what the future may hold for them when they face an unintended and unwanted pregnancy, who won't know where to turn or how to get care. Without regard for their stories or their fears and after less than two weeks of debate, Indiana lawmakers and the governor banned abortion in our state with few exceptions and that law is now in effect.

More:5 takeaways from emails obtained by IndyStar to Holcomb about Indiana abortion law

While most agree that efforts to prevent unintended pregnancies and to ensure pregnant people are healthy are more important now than ever, the reality is that we cannot prevent every unwanted or unsafe pregnancy. This means that our lawmakers will force thousands of people each year to leave their home state to access abortion care, to take matters into their own hands at home, or to continue traumatic, unwanted or unsafe pregnancies. This means that in their time of need, doctors like us, in the place they call home, cannot help them.

Our lawmakers have tied our hands with ideologically driven legislation that is opposed by the majority of Hoosiers and contrary to medical guidance — legislation that forces us to choose between committing malpractice or committing a felony. Because of this legislation, we will be forced to turn patients away. We will be forced to stand by until our patient becomes sick enough to meet the ill-defined threshold of a "life-threatening" pregnancy, which, despite lip-service to being based on "medical judgment" will, in practice, ultimately hinge on a lawyer's interpretation rather than a doctor's medical expertise.

We will be forced to tell patients that because their baby may live for more than three months after birth, even if their quality of life will be agonizing, we cannot provide the compassionate care that their parents know is right for them. We will tell them that because they did not realize they were pregnant soon enough, we cannot save them from continuing to endure the trauma of their rape every single day. 

More:Inside all of IndyStar's coverage of abortion in Indiana since Roe v Wade decision

As physicians, to not be able to give the safe, evidence-based, medically indicated care we know how to provide, is a nightmare — one that many of us will not be able to continue to endure for very long. Already, our students are looking to other states to complete their training and to build their careers. We will have to watch as our already understaffed hospitals lose young physicians and as our communities' health suffers with dwindling numbers of qualified clinicians.

We will watch as the number of unintended and teen parents begins to climb again, and as the number of people dying in pregnancy continues to increase, all the while knowing that Indiana lawmakers have tied our hands.

More:'Will the physicians leave?': Many fear abortion ban will lead to medical brain drain

On this day, on behalf of the Indiana Section of the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, we urge the people of Indiana to think about whether these are the people you want making life and death decisions for you and whether this new reality is what we want. It will require collective action, as a community, to change the course of the future for our state. Our hands are tied, but yours are not. 

Dr. Caitlin Bernard and Dr. Caroline Rouse, legislative co-chairs of the Indiana Section of the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists.

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