Doctors across the country are entering the political arena over reproductive rights

Spurred on by the case of Roe — and the ongoing Covid pandemic — more physicians are considering or running for state and local political office, believing their expertise is critical to combating medical misinformation and depoliticizing medicine, physicians, and organizations that serve they recruit candidates said.

The Supreme Court decision, Roe v. Reversing Wade is the latest in a “series of attacks” on patients’ rights that doctors have resisted in recent years, Dr. Dona Kim Murphey, the vice chair of Doctors in Politics, a politicians’ action committee founded in 2020 to support and recruit doctors to run for office. But as it forces some doctors to navigate newly restrictive patient care and others are unable to do their jobs for fear of criminalization, it has become a determining factor in whether they run for office.

“Doctors are stepping back and acknowledging all the damage done in recent years by people who don’t understand the impact it is having on the health and well-being of individuals or communities, or on our democracy,” she said.

Murphey said her organization has stepped up efforts over the past year to identify doctors who would do well in roles ranging from Congress to local school boards who can make decisions about whether and how schools teach sex education.

The group has gathered more than 110 candidates, mostly women from communities of color who are considering running for office, she said. Reproductive rights are a motivating factor for many of them, she said.

Roe’s fall was the “nail in the coffin” for Dr. Tina Shah, a pulmonary and critical care physician who served as a White House Fellow in both the Trump and Obama administrations. Shah, a registered Democrat, is now considering running for a congressional seat in New Jersey.

“The implication of Roe v. Wade, there’s an entire article on reproductive rights, but it has an even bigger implication, which is who controls medicine and medical decision-making, and this was a huge step backwards.”

Shah, who is backed by 314 Action, a political action committee pushing to get more scientists elected to office, has not yet decided when she will run. Abortion remains legal in New Jersey, where she lives, but she believes it could still make a difference at the federal level.

dr Tina Shah.
dr Tina Shah. Courtesy of Tina Shah

“I could help strengthen what’s happening in our state, but also drive it nationally,” she said. “Because just like when we think about civil rights and the voting rights law, there are some instances in our country’s history where we need strong federal action, and I think we’re on to another one with reproductive rights.”

It is not customary for doctors to occupy the congress halls. Currently there is 18 doctors in the House of Representatives and Senate and at least 75 in the state legislatures National Council of Legislators for Physiciansa non-partisan physician-led group that persecutes physicians in political office.

In the past, physicians have experienced positive public perception, making them strong candidates. Loud 2020 Pew Center According to one study, 72% of Americans said they had mostly positive views of doctors, and 35% of US adults said doctors had very high ethical standards, versus 23% in a Survey 2019.

“Physicians are among the most trusted professions in Americans, and that extends to their credibility in matters beyond their specialty because they are viewed as truth-tellers,” said Shaughnessy Naughton, president of 314 Action. “You don’t go to a doctor because they tell you, ‘You look great’ — you go to them because they tell you what you need to do to protect yourself and your family.”

314 Action, which is aligned with the Democratic Party, has spent millions of dollars on policy research, strategy and advertising for scientific candidates, including physicians, over the past year. The organization said it is creating a pipeline for doctors and other medical and scientific professionals to get into political office.

The organization said it has seen a significant increase in interest not only from physicians but from other STEM professionals over the past two years.

In 2020, the organization issued 187 state and local endorsements, a spokesman for the organization said. It has already made 196 recommendations this year and is expected to endorse at least 45 more candidates in the coming weeks.

Physicians running in the upcoming election could face a tougher battle than their predecessors as negative perceptions and hostility towards doctors and misinformation on issues like vaccines have increased during the pandemic.

Dr. Megan Srinivas, an infectious disease doctor who is running as a Democrat for the Iowa House seat, is undeterred.

“From a very simple standpoint, doctors can bring actual facts into the conversation so people have the right information before they set up harmful policies based on untruths,” she said. “We can offer a perspective that someone who’s never been in an exam room can’t, and we can put a face to the stories and understand the truth behind these difficult decisions, and it’s those experiences that lead to better politics.” will lead.”

dr Megan Srinivas
dr Megan Srinivas campaigning in Iowa.Gregory Hauenstein

Srinivas, whose campaign preceded Roe’s case, said the criminalization of medical care through abortion bans is still of concern to her, as hospitals are already facing staff shortages and incarcerating doctors could put more strain on patient care. Thirteen states have enacted laws making it a crime to perform or assist in having an abortion.

“We have all taken an oath to do whatever we can to help our patients, and there are situations where the patient’s life is at risk if they don’t have an abortion,” she said. “But at the same time, if a state bans it and threatens my license, I can’t help the other 1,000 patients on my list.” So it’s going to create a lot of ethical conflicts and I don’t know how we’re going to resolve that as a profession or as individual doctors.”

Abortion is still legal in Iowa, where Srinivas lives, but reproductive rights are still at risk in the state after its Supreme Court ruled that abortion rights are not protected under the state constitution.

dr Arvind Venkat, an emergency physician, is running on the Democratic ticket for a state house seat to represent an area outside of Pittsburgh in hopes of blocking an amendment to the Pennsylvania constitution that would dramatically limit abortion.

Republican lawmakers have proposed a constitutional amendment that would change the state constitution so that it does not guarantee abortion rights. If the measure passes the panel again, it could go to voters next year.

dr Arvind Venkat, center, campaigning in Pennsylvania.
dr Arvind Venkat, center, campaigning in Pennsylvania.Courtesy of Dr. Arvind Venkat

“Reproductive rights are now decided state by state, and Pennsylvania is ground zero for that,” he said. While his campaign for office began months before the Supreme Court overthrew Roe, attacks on reproductive rights were a long time coming, he said.

Years ago, Venkat treated a woman who had induced her own abortion and came to his emergency room bleeding profusely with an aggressive infection. She was from a country that banned abortion and probably didn’t know it was legal in the United States, he said. The incident stuck with him and is one of the reasons he is running, he said.

“As physicians, it is absolutely imperative that we share our stories and stand up before our communities so they can elect leaders who have shown they are there for all in times of need,” he said. “A background and expertise in medicine is particularly valuable at this time, both as we hopefully turn the corner on Covid and address other public health threats, such as the threat to abortion rights and gun violence issues, all of which have a public health perspective “. Doctors across the country are entering the political arena over reproductive rights

Fry Electronics Team

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