Supreme Court overturns Roe v. Wade, and health groups warn lives are at risk

The American Medical Association said the ruling doesn’t end abortion, but safe access to abortion. The American Academy of Pediatrics said teens should be able to get reproductive health services, including abortion services.

The Supreme Court has ruled Americans no longer have a constitutional right to abortion, and healthcare organizations say the ruling threatens the lives of patients.

States that pass laws barring abortion are simply going to end safe access to abortion, the American Medical Association said Friday. Patients’ lives are at stake, said Jack Resneck Jr., the AMA president.

​​“The American Medical Association is deeply disturbed by the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision to overturn nearly a half century of precedent protecting patients’ right to critical reproductive health care — representing an egregious allowance of government intrusion into the medical examination room, a direct attack on the practice of medicine and the patient-physician relationship, and a brazen violation of patients’ rights to evidence-based reproductive health services,” Resneck said in a statement.

“States that end legal abortion will not end abortion — they will end safe abortion, risking devasting consequences, including patients’ lives,” he said.

The court’s historic ruling Friday overturned Roe v. Wade and leaves the question of abortion access to the individual states. Thirteen states, including Texas, have enacted “trigger bans” that will prohibit abortion within 30 days now that the court has ruled, The Washington Post reports. Another seven states, including Ohio and Georgia, are expected to pass laws barring abortion within months or weeks, The Post reports.

Whole Woman’s Health, which operates four abortion clinics in Texas, has stopped scheduling abortions in that state, The Texas Tribune reported. Many women may now have to travel hundreds of miles to obtain an abortion, healthcare groups said.

When a draft of the high court’s decision leaked last month, the AMA and other health groups warned that it represents a dangerous government intrusion into healthcare.

The ruling creates a rift between states in terms of access to healthcare, Resneck said in his statement.

Resneck also said it adds to disparities in healthcare and punishes those women who can’t afford to other states for abortion services. Many of those women are members of minority groups, he noted.

“State restrictions that intrude on the practice of medicine and interfere with the patient-physician relationship leave millions with little or no access to reproductive health services while criminalizing medical care,” Resneck said.

“Access to legal reproductive care will be limited to those with the sufficient resources, circumstances, and financial means to do so — exacerbating health inequities by placing the heaviest burden on patients from Black, Latinx, Indigenous, low-income, rural, and other historically disadvantaged communities who already face numerous structural and systemic barriers to accessing health care,” he added.

Hours before the ruling, the American Academy of Pediatrics issued a statement saying that the organization supports the rights for adolescents to receive comprehensive reproductive healthcare services, including access to abortion.

Elise D. Berlan, co-author of the AAP’s policy statements on counseling pregnant teens, said all patients need to be able to get access to confidential care.

“Teenagers need accurate information about their reproductive health options, as well as other vital services like comprehensive sex education and contraception,” Berlan said.

“AAP is concerned that attempts to limit abortion care will not only interfere with the adolescents’ trusting, confidential relationship with their physician, but could result in real psychological and physical harm,” she added. “Any delays in healthcare can increase volatility within a family, limit pregnancy options, or cause someone to seek an unsafe abortion.”

Elizabeth Alderman, chair of the AAP Committee on Adolescence, noted that the ruling hurts patients of color and those in rural communities.

“Laws that restrict access to reproductive health care have a disproportionate impact on young people of color and those in rural and medically underserved areas, as well as other populations,” Alderman said in a statement.

“People with resources, money, and transportation have the ability to travel to another state to receive the safe and legal care they need. For those who do not have those resources, including most adolescents, access to the health care they need is out of their reach. This reinforces the health disparities that exist across our country.”

Iffath A. Hoskins, president of the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, denounced the court ruling that she described as “a direct blow to bodily autonomy, reproductive health, patient safety and health equity in the United States”

“This decision, which has been foreshadowed for many months, confirms that this is a dark and dangerous time for the women and doctors of America,” she said in a statement.

David J. Skorton, president and CEO of the Association of American Medical Colleges, said that leaving healthcare matters to the purview of individual states threatens the lives of patients.

“Everyone should be able to access comprehensive health care, including women of reproductive age,” Skowron said. “Restrictive state laws will severely limit a patient’s access to comprehensive reproductive health care, interfere in the patient-physician relationship, and override what is ultimately a clinician’s responsibility to provide the best medical care for every patient.”

In the wake of the high court ruling, the AMA said it will continue to fight laws preventing women from obtaining abortions.

"We will always have physicians’ backs and defend the practice of medicine, we will fight to protect the patient-physician relationship, and we will oppose any law or regulation that compromises or criminalizes patient access to safe, evidence-based medical care, including abortion," Resneck said in his statement.

"As the health of millions of patients hangs in the balance, this is a fight we will not give up.”