Editorial: Abortion law puts doctors under the microscope
Very few members of the Indiana General Assembly have medical training or experience. This can be seen in the new abortion law they have just passed. Worse still, the law complicates the ability of physicians to fully utilize their training and experience to provide what they determine, in their considered judgment, to be the best possible care for women.
In their frantic race to broadly ban abortion in this state by any means likely to garner most of the Republican super majority votes in the Indiana General Assembly on what is best for health care of women – especially those with complicated pregnancies – has been sacrificed for political expediency.
Now, physicians and obstetricians must not only consult standards of care and best medical practices, but also consider whether providing that care may violate Indiana’s new punitive abortion ban. Doctors will have to explain themselves — potentially to prosecutors, in court, under threat of criminal charges — for simply providing the care they believe is best for their patients.
The new law will make performing an abortion a Level 5 felony with very limited exceptions. These include cases of rape or incest up to 10 weeks after fertilization; protect the life and health of the mother; and if a fetus is diagnosed with a fatal abnormality.
Andy East of the Republic recently reported on the implementation of the new law. Reading between the lines, it’s fair to say that there is at least some confusion. There is also justified apprehension.
The new law has already been challenged in court as unconstitutionally vague, but it stands as of this writing and is expected to go into effect Sept. 15 unless a judge issues an injunction.
Pregnancy terminations that occur after September 15 should take place in hospitals. Columbus Regional, like other hospitals in the state, is working to establish policies and procedures to comply with the new law.
In the past, hospitals, including CRH, have performed abortions only in cases where the life or health of the mother is in danger, East reported.
CRH Chief Medical Officer Dr Tom Sonderman said the care provided by the hospital in these cases will still be available. But the law imposes new obligations – and serious potential new liabilities – on providers.
“Once we fully understand these requirements under the law, we will want to deploy a systematic approach to make this as smooth and fast (as possible) and remove as much of a burden for everyone involved to ensure we are delivering the best. care we can to our patients, but also stay in compliance with this law,” Sonderman said.
But as East reported, that’s how Indianapolis law firm Quarles & Brady, which has a major healthcare practice, analyzed the challenges for healthcare practitioners under the new law :
“In emergency situations, for example, physicians will need to make quick decisions about medical necessity, remembering to document this in advance even if minutes may mean their patient’s death, while dealing with patients in crisis and families worried about losing their female members, but which can ultimately also result in the doctor being arrested for providing care to the patient.
Lawmakers should never have put doctors and women at such risk. Indiana’s abortion law needs to be fixed.