This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2017, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.
We should all be asking ourselves: since when does the government get to have a say in my personal medical decisions? This legislative session seems to have a common theme with those of the past: Utah legislators practicing medicine without a medical license. As a licensed physician and a human rights attorney, we were under the impression that practicing medicine without a license was not legal in the state of Utah.
In 2016, Sen. Curt Bramble, licensed as an accountant, introduced and passed into law the so-called "fetal anesthesia" bill, even though leading medical experts in Utah spoke openly about the potential dangers it could pose to pregnant Utahns and their families. Utah legislators actively ignored vocal and written expert testimony and put the well-being of Utahns at significant risk, all in order to push their own ideology on women. If a group of civil engineer experts told legislators that building a certain highway would put Utah citizens at risk, and legislators ignored these engineering experts, would we stand for that?
Once again, Bramble and now Rep. Keven Stratton would like to exercise their lack of medical acumen this session with House Bill 141, a bill proposal that forces physicians to promise to provide "snake oil" as a reasonable option for medical care to pregnant women. Specifically, this bill requires Utah doctors prescribing the abortion pill to counsel people that this type of abortion may be "reversed" (which is scientifically false and medically unproven). It also requires the Department of Health to print materials peddling the same lie.
Why do we support legislative efforts forcing physicians to practice unethical, and potentially harmful, medicine? None of those sponsoring this bill are licensed physicians in obstetrics. If they were, they would know that the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists has repeatedly renounced such legislation. First, there are no scientific studies demonstrating that "abortion reversal" is safe. In fact, this bill is based on a sample of six people, one-third of whom did not have a successful reversal. Second, shouldn't we value factual, informed consent over the personal religious ideology of male politicians?
If someone is uncertain about having an abortion, physicians should delay the procedure (as Dr. Torres does) until the patient feels secure in their decision and is certain. That process is far more ethical than saying: "Oh, don't worry, if you're not sure then, go ahead, this pill is probably reversible and there probably won't be any harm." Ethical medicine guides the physician to inform the patient of all scientifically supported options, including not having an abortion. Telling patients that "reversing" an abortion is possible, once underway, is neither scientifically possible nor ethical.
Surely we will be hearing from these legislators "but these are small changes" and "there is scientific evidence, look right here!" in support of the bill. However, just because something has been published in a journal does not mean the medical community accepts it as a change of standard medical practice. As far as has been demonstrated, Utah legislators cannot critically interpret clinical studies. They merely cherry-pick and regurgitate the ones that support their personal emotions and beliefs.
People would die if physicians practiced medicine that way. Physicians must utilize a critical approach to any published study that may change medical practice. Not doing so is unethical and dangerous. For so-called "small government," ours is getting very cozy inside the minutia of the Department of Health as well as inside the physician's exam room.
HB141 must be thoroughly and quickly defeated in order to protect the private, personal, and evidence-based care that Utahns expect from their doctors. Please call your representatives and ask them to vote against this "snake oil peddling" of a bill.
Let's put health, safety, and sound medical care over ideology in Utah.
Kate Kelly is a human rights attorney in Salt Lake City. Leah Torres, M.D., M.S., is an OB/Gyn and reproductive health specialist in Salt Lake City.