Leaving choice up to states hurts our patients' autonomy - Albuquerque Journal

Leaving choice up to states hurts our patients’ autonomy

I’m a second-year medical student, and most of my days for the past 10 months have been spent learning about basic human physiology, anatomy and biochemistry. Once a week, my class learns something much more important: We learn from physicians about caring for real patients. We learn about how to communicate in ways patients will understand, how to talk to patients about their options for their care and make shared decisions, and how to protect their privacy during these interactions. These sessions have sometimes been uncomfortable, awkward and challenging for me and my classmates; we have to take all of our new knowledge and communicate it in a clear and empathetic way. These sessions are important though, because clear communication builds trust and confidence, as well as improves patient compliance.

We spend a lot of time focused on the importance of consent for any interaction with a patient — which means informing patients of all their options, talking about all the risks and benefits, and letting the patient decide what is best for their health and care. Informed consent is the basis of autonomy in the health care system. Patients need all the information regarding treatments, medicine or procedures to make decisions for themselves or those they are guardians for.

The decision to overturn Roe v. Wade interferes with patient privacy and autonomy to make their own decisions about what is best for their health and care in any clinic. We go to great lengths in medicine to ensure that unless a patient is a danger to themselves, others, elders or children, what happens in a patient encounter remains private. Early in our medical education, we have already learned the importance of letting our patients make the best choices for themselves and to support them in those choices. Our job is not to judge a patient of the decisions they have made, or why they have come in to see a health care provider. Abortion access restriction limits physicians’ abilities to support their patients. The criminalization of abortion will lead to more fear in patients and may lead to patients seeking care outside of the health care system. Abortion restrictions will also disproportionately affect people with fewer resources who cannot afford to travel to another state for care.

The decision to allow the states to make their own laws regarding abortion access is dangerous for patients and limits the ability of physicians to provide a full spectrum of reproductive health care.

Patients deserve access to the best care available and autonomy regarding their health care, no matter where they live or the resources available to them.

New Mexico’s leaders protecting a full spectrum reproductive care, and abortion access, is important in supporting patients in our state. Nationwide, patients should be able to make decisions about if, or when, they become parents, be provided with care in the event of emergencies, have access to medically accurate information, and have access to abortion throughout their pregnancy. We should trust medical providers to use all the medical knowledge and communication skills they spend years learning to help patients make the best decisions they can in any circumstance.

I call on New Mexico’s elected officials to codify Roe v. Wade to protect patients’ access to full spectrum reproductive health care. Abortion is simply a part of health care.

This op-ed was part of a point/counterpoint feature. To read an opposing viewpoint, click here.

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