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Abortion is much safer than having a term delivery and actually reduces the patient's chance of death–from a purely scientific perspective, which Aziz said, is the perspective all physicians should hold when they approach difficult situations.
This morning the Supreme Court's anticipated decision to overturn Roe v. Wade became official, inhibiting access to abortion care in some states, or entirely banning care in others. In May, a draft of this decision became public which reignited an ongoing debate surrounding abortion care.
In hopes of emphasizing the voices of experts and medical professionals who can speak to the necessity of abortion care from their education, training, and experience, HCPLive interviewed Michael M. Aziz, MD, MPH, to explain the implications of denying abortion care to those who seek it.
Aziz is a maternal-fetal medicine (MFM) specialist and a member of the State Liaison Network for the Society for Maternal-Fetal Medicine (SMFM).
"Of all the developed nations in the world, the United States has the highest maternal mortality rate," Aziz said. "That's only gone up with the current COVID-19 pandemic."
The rate of maternal mortality in the US is about 35 per 100,000 births, he explained, depending on the patient's ethnic and racial background, with the rate increasing. Minority maternal mortality rates are much higher than Caucasians.
"The day that you have a baby is the most dangerous day of your life," Aziz explained.
Many patients that Aziz treats have life-limiting illnesses that complicate and endager patients who become pregnant. Additionally, these patients may not have good access to birth control or aren't good candidates for birth control based on their health problems.
"Even without chronic health issues, pregnancy is inherently more dangerous than not being pregnant," he said.
Abortion is much safer than having a term delivery and actually reduces the patient's chance of death by nearly 100 fold–from a purely scientific perspective, which Aziz said, is the perspective all physicians should hold when they approach difficult situations.
"The risk of death from an abortion is the same as your risk of death from tooth extraction," he said, "and it's a shame that abortion has become so highly politicized, that the facts aren't just left to speak for themselves."
According to Aziz, it's important to always keep that in mind because an abortion could be considered medically indicated as it reduces a patient's risk of death.
The "overwhelming majority" of patients that Aziz sees never imagined themselves in a situation where they would choose to have an abortion. Aside from the politicization of abortion care, the decision is already difficult even if it's the healthiest option for the patient, and each patient has to reconcile that decision in their own way, he explained.
"Because of the politicization of the issue," Aziz said, "it's become so charged that even though the patient knows the right decision, they then are forced to be in a strange situation where they're hoping to have a miscarriage, or hoping that no one finds out, or hoping that that they'll just deliver and then that decision will be taken out of their hands for them and they won't have to make this terrible, painful decision to have an abortion."
Unfortunately, before Roe V. Wade came into affect and abortion was illegal, 20% of all maternal deaths were a result of illegal and unsanitary abortions, according to Aziz.
"There are people who will get pregnant, who will not want to take the risks of having a baby–whether those are emotional risks, whether there are financial risks, whether they are health risks of having a baby–and they will choose not to have a baby," Aziz said.
"Does a person who doesn't want to have a baby deserve to die or not?" he ashed. "I think it really boils down to that question. And even if you, as the physician, are not willing to perform the abortion for them, that's perfectly fine. You can refer them to someone who will. And that's your obligation."
"My name is Michael Aziz. I'm a maternal-fetal medicine physician. I'm a member of the State Liaison network for the Society for maternal fetal medicine. My opinions are my own."