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Medical Students Speak Out About 'Disregard for Science' in Abortion Legislation

Alexandra Bader, Robyn Hanna, and Grace Oliver
Comments in italics are those of Health Train Express
From an early age, we are taught to believe those in power make educated decisions that are democratic and moral. However, elected officials are asked to create laws relating to a vast array of subjects, an impossible task for even the most motivated and well-informed individuals. Recently, we have been confronted with the limits of their knowledge and how this limitation yields uninformed laws that will negatively affect our lives, our patients, and our future practice. We encourage fellow medical students and physicians to harness their expertise and social capital to prevent the indoctrination of policies that are not grounded in scientific fact.
Not only is this deeply concerning to us as future physicians, but also as female citizens. It is alarming to observe the easy passage of a bill concerning the life and bodies of women by a predominantly white male legislative body. Trust is a vital part of the doctor-patient relationship and built through the development of an understanding of each patient’s unique values, goals and priorities. Our role as physicians is to aid patients in achieving their best quality of life and health by educating them on various efficacious treatment options and facilitating the best treatment plan for them. We do not make their decisions for them, rather we walk with them on the path of their choosing. Our grievance with Arkansas’ SB149 is not solely that it lacks a foundation in scientific fact, it also hampers the doctor-patient relationship and the individual autonomy that patients are entitled to as human beings.
An example of this limitation in action is the abortion trigger law Arkansas SB149. Within less than a month, this perilous piece of legislation was signed into law, making abortion automatically illegal in the state of Arkansas if Roe v. Wade is overturned.
The disregard for science the legislators hold became obvious when we answered the representatives’ questions during my testimony at the Health and Public Services Committee for SB149. It was evident that 1) the senators had their minds made up prior to entering the room and, 2) many senators did not understand the topics being discussed in this bill. When we tried to clarify misunderstandings, we were repeatedly cut off. Fact and science had little bearing in their decision — it was more convenient to use vague language that represents their personal beliefs than, say, to understand the distinctions of an emergency contraceptive versus an actual abortifacient. Science and data do not serve as the foundation of their governance over reproductive health, but rather inflammatory oration.
As citizens, we give elected representatives great power to regulate many aspects of our lives without requiring them to have the knowledge needed to properly inform their decisions. It would be unfair to expect them to be experts in their own right on everything over which they have influence. Therefore, we assert that legislators have a moral obligation to their constituents to seek expert assistance to better understand concepts with which they are unfamiliar. It became abundantly clear during our testimony that the men voting on this item did not have sufficient understanding of the concepts mentioned in the bill’s text to be able to appropriately consider its consequences.
Unfortunately this is true of many decisions made by state, local and federal representatives. "Politically naive"  students are fodder for cynical experienced legislators who act not on scientific evidence but on popular local beliefs, myths, religious concerns and/or fixed, false beliefs. Failure to recognize some politicians vote to be re-elected. Students frequently do not recognize not all subscribe to the ideals of physicians or physicians to be. It will always be an uphill battle to make meaningful change.
We urge our healthcare colleagues to leverage their credibility and medical knowledge to help influence our society for the good of our patients and our field. Patient care extends beyond the exam room. Health is our lane; our expertise, experience, and voices are urgently needed.
Health Train Express is glad to have you aboard as future physician leaders

Reference: This post is from Doximity Op-ed, a physician social media website.

Medical Students Speak Out About 'Disregard for Science' in Abortion Legislation

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