On Thursday, the House Oversight and Reform Committee held a hearing on abortion access in the country, discussing in particular the recent six-week abortion ban enacted in Texas. Numerous individuals provided testimony, including Democratic Representative Cori Bush; Gloria Steinem; the co-founder of the Reproductive Justice Movement, Loretta Ross; We Testify abortion storyteller and Texas Equal Access Fund worker, Maleeha Aziz; Dr Ghazaleh Moayedi, a Texas OB-GYN and abortion provider; and Dr Ingrid Skop, a member of the American Association of Pro-Life Obstetricians and Gynecologists.
And surprise, surprise: The anti-choice doctor told a story littered with inaccuracies.
It would have been easy to fixate on Dr Skop’s wildly odd habit of gendering a fetus as male. That alone warrants some considerable pause. But what she said about the safety of abortion care, both surgical and medical, as well as how people feel before and after their abortions, and who is qualified to provide abortion care were, to my mind, outrageous.
One of Dr Skop’s claims was that medication abortion is inherently dangerous and can result in a number of complications, especially if it’s a self-managed medication abortion. Yet a recent 2020 study found that no-test medication abortions provided via telemedicine are “effective, safe, acceptable, and improve access to care.”
Dr Skop then claimed that there is a lack of accurate data regarding abortion complications — which is simply not true. To be clear, abortion is incredibly safe — safer than getting a tonsillectomy or your wisdom teeth removed; safer than a colonoscopy; fourteen times safer than childbirth. In addition to its proven safety, scores of data on abortion-related risks and complications exist and are readily available for anyone — Dr Skop included — who cares to look.
Dr Moayedi even felt compelled to remind Dr Skop, when answering questions during the hearing, that “spreading medical [misinformation] can result in the loss of board certification.”
“It is incorrect that this data is not tracked appropriately,” Dr Moayedi continued. “In our state of Texas, this data is tracked at a clinic level and it is legally required that, every single day, we report to the state how many people have had abortions and if there were any complications.” She added that she even has to report heath conditions that are not related to abortion care, but occur up to 20 years later in the life of a person who has had an abortion in the past.
Dr Skop went on to say that people who have abortions later in pregnancy “have late abortions” because they “just got tired of saying, ‘No, I want to keep the baby’.” That feels like an affront to every person who has had an abortion later in pregnancy, and it’s also not backed up by research. People have abortions later in their pregnancies for two factual reasons: a fetal abnormality was detected that has made their pregnancy not compatible with life, or they have faced numerous barriers to healthcare that made it impossible for them to access an abortion earlier. As a recent example of this, when Governor Greg Abbott banned abortion care under the guise of public safety during the Covid-19 pandemic, Texas clinics that provide abortion care saw an increase in people seeking abortions later in pregnancy once those clinics were allowed to re-open.
If all of that wasn’t enough, Dr Skop also claimed that people who have abortions come to her distraught; that their mental health suffers as a result of obtaining abortion care; and that many women kill themselves after having an abortion. Now for the truth: An all-encompassing Turnaway Study found that people who have abortions report feeling relieved, and five years later were steadfast in their belief that their decision to have an abortion was the right one. “We found no evidence of emerging negative emotions or abortion decision regret; both positive and negative emotions declined over the first two years and plateaued thereafter, and decision rightness remained high and steady,” the researchers wrote in an article for Social Science & Medicine. “At five years post-abortion, relief remained the most commonly felt emotion among all women.”
The same study found that denying abortion care is what causes harm, not obtaining it. People who were unable to have a wanted abortion were more likely to experience serious pregnancy complications, more likely to stay tethered to abusive partners, more likely to suffer anxiety and the loss of self-esteem, and more likely to experience chronic pain. Additionally, the children they already have were more likely to experience developmental delays.
Given her hardline views, it’s perhaps no surprise that Dr Skop refused to answer as to whether or not she would force her own daughter to carry a pregnancy that resulted from a rape. As the committee member who asked her that very question pointed out, answering honestly could highlight the hypocrisy of the anti-abortion movement: What they would do for themselves and their families are the very things they seek to deny others.
Dr Skop would not answer as to whether or not she supported SB8, though she did say that she “may” have submitted written testimony in support of the law. Instead, she stated that she supported a state’s right to regulate abortion care in accordance with the will of the people.
If it’s true that she cares so deeply about the will of the people, however, Dr Skop should emphatically and unapologetically support access to abortion care — because the vast majority of people in this country support it.