University creates task force to focus on abortion access

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A universitywide task force on abortion-care access is working to mitigate the impact of a potential statewide abortion ban in Michigan.

A ban has potential impacts across all of the University of Michigan’s missions, including health care at Michigan Medicine and University Health Service, medical education and other areas.

The task force is making plans to manage in a post-Roe v. Wade environment, by determining how an abortion ban could affect clinical care, educational instruction, student health and more.

A draft opinion from the U.S. Supreme Court that became public earlier this month indicates the court could overturn the landmark 1973 Roe v. Wade decision that established a nationwide constitutional right to abortion.

In Michigan, a 1931 law banning abortion care could take effect if the court overturns Roe v. Wade. The state law that would be resurrected if Roe falls is subject to multiple ongoing lawsuits, including one brought by Planned Parenthood of Michigan and another by Gov. Gretchen Whitmer. The U-M task force is preparing for different scenarios given the various possible outcomes at the state and federal level.

“The specter of a complete ban on abortion care in Michigan is worrisome. I strongly support access to abortion care,” President Mary Sue Coleman said. “We have a female-dominated institution; we care about our own communities as well as those we serve through clinical care and education. I am deeply concerned about how prohibiting abortion would affect U-M’s medical teaching, our research, and our service to communities in need.”

The current task force, convened by Coleman and Marschall S. Runge, executive vice president for medical affairs, includes leaders from Michigan Medicine’s clinical teams and the Medical School, as well as the Office of General Counsel, Human Resources and University Health Services. It also includes students and faculty from the LSA departments of Psychology and Women’s and Gender Studies, the School of Information, Institute for Research on Women and Gender, Library Health Sciences and more.

“The impact of criminalization will be felt across all of University of Michigan’s missions. The most serious consequences will be felt in the university’s clinical care realm, by patients without financial or logistical resources to access out-of-state abortion care — disproportionately people of color, adolescents and those in rural Michigan,” said Dee Fenner, co-chair of the task force and chair of the Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology at Michigan Medicine.

“But the impact will be felt in our classrooms as well, where pregnancy, undesired birth or complications of unsafe abortion may impact educational attainment,” Fenner said. “Existing racial disparities in health outcomes and in student educational outcomes will likely be exacerbated. Overturning Roe is a health, gender and racial equity issue. We need careful planning to mitigate its most serious potential effects.”

For now, Michigan Medicine remains dedicated to and continues to provide the full spectrum of women’s health services, including abortion care.

“Many of the patients we see are diagnosed with fetal anomalies or experience other complications that make ongoing pregnancy and giving birth dangerous, or they have serious underlying illnesses or other needs that make abortion care in an outpatient facility not possible,” said David Miller, president of U-M Health, Michigan Medicine’s clinical division. “Our commitment is to be there for those who need the specialized care we can offer.”

Michigan Medicine is often the place of last resort for people seeking abortion care in the state, as well as in neighboring states, said task force co-chair Lisa Harris, professor of obstetrics and gynecology.

“We see patients whose underlying health conditions require hospital-level abortion care, care that other sites are not able to provide, and would be very difficult to access out of state,” Harris said. “We can also expect to see an increase in the birthrate in the state — some estimates are as high as a 17% increase — and it is not clear that we or others have capacity to manage a dramatic shift like this. All pregnant patients will feel this impact.”

Harris said the task force will consider how to mitigate the impact on Michigan Medicine’s clinical training programs, which include training around abortion and reproductive care.

“We also need to consider the impact of restrictive abortion on the desire of faculty, staff and students to take or remain in jobs in the state or pursue education here,” Harris said.

The task force will outline guidance for clinical providers and work to establish resources for accessing out-of-state abortions that can be provided to patients and others in the campus community.

“Right now, we have a lot more questions than answers,” Fenner said. “We recognize that abortion is a complex issue that may bring up complex feelings. Regardless of one’s personal feelings about abortion, as professionals providing reproductive health care, this is a time of great uncertainty for us and for our patients. But we are pulling together a large, diverse group of university leaders to make sure we are prepared for whatever may happen.”

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Comments

  1. Marinda Ramey
    on May 25, 2022 at 9:11 am

    I’m not sure this is relevant, but I work at the bedside as a nurse at the women’s birth center. I support women through their MVA, and D&C procedures. Access to care is so limited. I’m not sure if I could be helpful for this task force. Thanks.

  2. Joseph Lipa
    on May 25, 2022 at 9:15 am

    I disagree that a child’s worth depends on whether he or she is “wanted” vs. “unwanted.” We know that our amazing providers will go to incredible lengths to save a baby in the womb who is “wanted.” But if that same baby is “unwanted”, we should be convening task forces to ensure he or she can be ripped to shreds?

    This makes no sense. As we know from history, it is incredibly dangerous to define people’s worth based on whether they are “wanted”—or any other criterion besides being a member of the human race.

  3. Kari Dumbeck
    on May 25, 2022 at 10:12 am

    I wrote a response and it didn’t print so I’ll write another. We live in a throw away society where everything goes, inlcuding our children. When did humanity leave Humanity? We should be supporting mothers through the preganancies and helping the babies get adopted. God gave us the gift of life and we are spitting in his face against all creation. I’ve heard 80% of abortions are regretted and the mother’s suffer with depression later on. Is it too much to iive in a World of wellness rather than sickness?

  4. Wendy Benedict
    on May 25, 2022 at 10:22 am

    The abortion debate is about allowing a woman to receive the healthcare she needs for whatever reason that may be. Many of the abortion laws forbid a woman from terminating a pregnancy with no regard to danger to her health, or the viability of the fetus. The fetus may bey dead and rotting inside of the mother, but it’s illegal for her to have it removed. As for the wanted/unwanted debate, the adoption process is completely broken like everything else in this country. Maybe, instead of focusing on what someone can do with their body, put that energy into better support for the mother and child after its born. Or, in light of yet another school shooting, find a way to end these tragedies.

  5. Alicia Farmer
    on May 25, 2022 at 11:02 am

    I’m so relieved and pleased to see that the U is planning ahead — and so discouraged that it has to. As someone who had a second term abortion with UM health care providers, and as a doula who worked with families who welcomed their babies at UM facilitiesI am grateful this training is continuing. As a staff member who works with students, I’m glad to know you’re thinking about how restrictions will impact the health and wellbeing of our students. I would be honored to serve on the task force if you’re looking for at large members.

  6. Jacqueline Lameira
    on May 25, 2022 at 11:37 am

    I appreciate the University creating this highly qualified committee to consider the critical impacts of the impending supreme court ruling and applaud their efforts in planning to continue the university’s outstanding commitment to women’s health issues. Will this vital and impactful subject be added to the agenda of the 2022 38th Annual Medicine Update meeting where Michigan Medicine clinicians and other health care professionals involved in primary care are provided updates on current thinking about various diagnostic and therapeutic challenges?

  7. Amanda Boggs
    on May 27, 2022 at 5:00 am

    First and foremost, the goal of any healthcare agency or facility should be to promote the health and well-being of its patients. It is disturbing to see the University of Michigan create a task force to undermine its responsibility to care for one of its most vulnerable population of health care clients- unborn babies.
    1) The University of Michigan is one of the leaders in research, science, and education. When are they going to start admitting the fundamental scientific truth that a human life begins at conception? Science has confirmed that a fetus has its own unique DNA separate from the mother, therefore we are looking at a separate human life from the mother.A fetus in the womb is part of the human race and is just at an early age of human development and if given the chance will continue to develop into nothing but a human. We don’t allow the slaughter of any other human in another stage of development, just because they are “unwanted.” As a leader in healthcare and science – this truth is where the University should be directing its attention on whether or not it’s ok to support the killing of an innocent child.
    2) What about your employees who do not agree with this task force? What makes the university a desirable place for them to work? Why are we focused on only one side of this issue? There are people who work and go to school at this University who do not believe that an abortion ban is unreasonable. The University should be trying to limit the number of abortions as they 100% of the time kill an unborn human’s life, and have detrimental physical and mental health effects on the mother as well. The arguments above that state “many patients receive abortions for fetal anomalies or health conditions that make pregnancy and birth dangerous” are flat out wrong. Statistics show that 96% of abortions are sought out due to financial and economic circumstances.
    3) Which brings me to my 3rd point.The University should be using their money, energy, talent, and experience to further support women and babies once Roe v. Wade is overturned and our state law banning abortion goes into effect. Why not invest money into financial and physical resources for babies and mothers? How about money toward pregnancy care, resources for education and parenting? How about money toward postpartum healthcare? How about support for students who find themselves pregnant on campus with fear of being rejected by the University? How about resources for women who are in poverty situations? How about money toward local pregnancy resource centers and maternity homes? How about the University fund a pregnancy resource center for its patients that need it? How about investing time and money to come up with solutions for the “broken” adoption process?

    The University is saying the quiet part out loud in the statement above- abortion makes money and is profitable for healthcare systems. Abortion is NOT healthcare. The system has made a dark profit off the millions of unborn babies killed in abortion. The tables are turning and there is nothing the University can do to stop the pro-life movement from happening, so invest the time and money toward supporting women and babies instead! Abortion has never been about supporting women’s rights, but eliminating a vulnerable, marginalized population of humans from its inception.

    I have never been so disturbed by the University of Michigan before- if you are truly the “leaders and best” then prove it in your action to improve the outcomes for life.

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