In the now more than six months since the Dobbs decision by the U.S. Supreme Court—which limited access to abortions and limited reproductive rights self-determination on the part of those individuals wishing to become or who are pregnant—there has been much discourse relating to public policy, affirmation of standards of support for reproductive rights, requests for policy adjustments on the part of academic institutions hospitals and medical schools, and introspection on the part of all of us as to where we stand on this complex issue.
As dean of our School of Medicine, I am looking at the larger picture. What I see is an issue that affects every one of the 333 million Americans inhabiting the United States. Every one of us is affected by the birth of a child, the pregnancy of an individual and the impact that these have on our social structures. We are collectively affected by every decision an individual makes. As a medical school educating physicians and scientists, and as practicing physicians and scientists, we bring a unique perspective and duty to inform and support not only policy-level, but also individual-level decision-making.
It is the nature of that unique perspective that we will address on Wednesday, Jan. 25, at 5 p.m. (WRB 1413 and by Zoom) at our upcoming Significant Conversation on Reproductive Rights held by the School of Medicine to engage the entire academic medical community in this very complex issue.
I would advocate that we start the conversation by affirming a simple obligation on the part of our academic medical community—we will do our best to understand and to transmit knowledge related to every aspect of fertilization, embryogenesis, fetal development, newborn development and well-being, and maternal health. We will also do our best to understand and transmit knowledge related to the complex decision-making processes of pregnancy and parenthood, pregnancy terminations, birth control measures and planned parenthood, as well as decisions around early terminations, later medical abortions, and medical indications for abortions, of which there are many.
Intertwined in these conversations is a need to appreciate the significant mental health impact these decisions have on individuals, families, extended families and the broader community that has led to much distress.
Most importantly, I wish to emphasize that, at least from my perspective, our obligation is to appreciate and train our medical community with the most objective information that we can so that when each of us encounters a patient who needs to make a decision regarding reproduction that they have all the information they need for that decision—information that is not filtered by our own personal moral values and political perspectives.
I encourage you to attend the Significant Conversation on Jan. 25 to discuss this complex topic.
Stan Gerson, MD