Tennessee Physicians Express Alarm Following Indiana Abortion Case

Advocate Andy

Doctors say aggressive enforcement of Tennessee law could hinder patient-centered healthcare

Following a case in Indiana where an ob-gyn provided an abortion to a 10-year-old rape victim and was subjected to a fine and aggressive pursuit by the state's Attorney General, Tennessee doctors are speaking out and raising concerns about what Tennessee's abortion restrictions could mean for patients seeking care.

A group of Tennessee physicians affiliated with the healthcare advocacy group Protect My Care said that if Tennessee pursues aggressive enforcement of its abortion laws (laws that ban abortion completely after six weeks of pregnancy), patients may suffer from a lack of proper care in complicated pregnancies or difficult pregnancy situations.

Dr. Amy Gordon Bono, MD, MPH, a primary care physician in Nashville said, “From my physician perspective, the abortion care laws that exist in Tennessee and several American states are a direct invasion of patient healthcare privacy. Our state’s laws don’t allow a patient to trust their doctor. Instead, our laws only allow for a “reasonable” objective standard of care that opens up the physician to malicious pursuit from anyone who would disagree with their plan of care. Tennessee physicians can no longer use their “good faith” medical judgment to practice medicine. Permitting physicians to use a “good faith,” subjective medical judgment standard allows physicians to put a patient’s wishes first and foremost in every medical decision. It lets physicians practice patient-centered care."

Dr. Nikki Zite, MD, MPH, an Ob-Gyn who practices at an academic center in East Tennessee and is a leader in the TN Chapter of the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, is also concerned about actions taken against the Indiana physician. “Dr. Bernard provided lifesaving, evidence-based, compassionate healthcare for a child in a traumatic situation. Sharing de-identified information was important to show the impact of unscientific bans on healthcare and to quell the attacks on Dr. Bernard's credibility.  The University of Indiana Hospital's internal review and the American Medical Association's Ethics Committee deemed no violations in patient confidentiality or reporting occurred.  The Indiana Attorney General proceeded with this attack, demonstrating political motivation rather than protecting people.  The Medical Board's acknowledgement that Dr. Bernard is an excellent physician and that any penalty that kept her from caring for pregnant people in Indiana would be a disservice was further evidence that this 14-hour hearing and entire investigation, funded by Indiana taxpayers, was only aimed at intimidating Dr. Bernard.” 

Tennessee physicians continue to suggest that the state's restrictive laws put the lives of patients in danger. Protect My Care is asking the legislature to consider amending the law to provide additional safeguards for patients and their doctors.

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Andy Spears is a middle Tennessee writer and policy advocate. He reports on news around public policy issues - education, health care, consumer protection, and more.

Nashville, TN

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