Emergency physician explains how reproductive rights are at stake with Supreme Court election

Candidate for the Pennsylvania Supreme Court, Judge Daniel McCaffery speaks to supporters at Snipes Farm in Morrisville, Pa., Saturday, Oct. 28, 2023. (AP Photo/Ryan Collerd)

By Benjamin Abella

November 1, 2023

Benjamin Abella MD, MPhil, an emergency physician and professor at the University of Pennsylvania published an oped explaining how reproductive rights are on the line in the upcoming Pennsylvania Supreme Court election.

As an emergency physician, I see patients with significant reproductive health challenges every week. Let’s meet one, a 32 year old who we can call J.F. She’s a young mother who is married and excited to be carrying her second child. Her pregnancy has been healthy thus far, but after developing severe abdominal pain and bleeding, she rushes to the emergency department to seek medical attention. Here, we discover that she has an ectopic pregnancy and requires life-saving abortion care.

Luckily, in Pennsylvania, women have the freedom to seek reproductive health care, but just a few hundred miles away, this same patient would not be able to get the medically necessary care she needs. As Pennsylvanians, it’s essential that we protect reproductive freedom in our state. That’s why, on November 7th, we must vote to ensure that our state Supreme Court will secure abortion rights.

In many cases across the U.S., women have died because of the failure of the system to protect them and provide the choices they need to manage their care. There are states where these essential procedures and methods are forbidden, and when they’re forbidden, women suffer, children suffer, and families suffer. Hospitals are even closing maternity wards and other healthcare access in part because healthcare providers refuse to work under these conditions, and hospital leaders don’t want to risk legal jeopardy. It’s a moral injury to providers to not be allowed to provide evidence-based health care. We do not want Pennsylvania to become like some of these other states. This cautionary tale should serve as a motivation.

Reproductive care is health care, and the freedom to choose reproductive care options needs to be available wherever people seek medical attention. So when we talk about curtailing the rights and freedoms to abortion, it’s much broader than that. It’s the right and freedom to obtain necessary and safe health care so that women and their families can be safe and prosperous.

Now, why is this so crucial? Republican candidate Carolyn Carluccio’s stance on abortion rights has raised significant concerns among advocates for reproductive freedom. If elected, Carluccio’s positions on women’s healthcare could have far-reaching consequences for our state. Her stance on abortion is deeply conservative and restrictive, which is at odds with the diverse and evolving needs of women in our state. She has advocated for stringent regulations on abortion access, which, if implemented, could severely limit a woman’s ability to make choices about her own body and reproductive health.

Furthermore, her approach may deter physicians from practicing in our state. Physicians prioritize providing comprehensive and compassionate healthcare, and if they perceive their ability to do so being compromised by restrictive policies, some may choose to leave. This potential healthcare provider exodus could lead to a shortage of essential medical services for women and families.

In this critical election on November 7, it is essential that we recognize the significance of Carluccio’s position on abortion rights and the broader implications it could have. Reproductive freedom is not merely a women’s issue; it is a fundamental human rights issue that affects individuals and families across our state.

Now, more than ever, we must remain vigilant. The recent overturning of Roe v. Wade by the United States Supreme Court serves as a stark reminder of the potential consequences of eroding reproductive rights. What happened at the federal level could soon become a reality here in Pennsylvania if we do not act to protect our reproductive freedoms. To prevent such a dire outcome, we must make our voices heard and vote for candidates who will defend Pennsylvanians’ freedom to access the necessary healthcare they deserve.

Benjamin Abella, MD, MPhil is a professor of Emergency Medicine and Vice Chair for Research in the Department of Emergency Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania.




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