OKLAHOMA CITY (KFOR) – Days after the nation’s highest court repealed the constitutional right to an abortion, leaving the decision in the hands of the states, there’s both concern and confusion on how miscarriages could be handled within reproductive care.
In May, Governor Stitt signed the strictest abortion ban into law in the country at the time, making it illegal unless the abortion is necessary to save the life of a pregnant woman in medical distress, or the pregnancy resulted from an act of rape, sexual assault, or incest that has been reported to law enforcement.
The law was reinforced Friday when Roe v. Wade was overturned with a decision on Dobbs v. Whole Woman’s Health Organization, eliminating the constitutional right to an abortion and placing power in the purview of individual states.
“There’s a little bit of a hole [and] at this point, we really don’t know [how things will play out],” said Mary Clarke, M.D., a Stillwater family physician and the Immediate Past President Of The Oklahoma State Medical Association. “We [physicians] have to make sure that we take care of patients the best way we can based on scientific evidence,” she added.
“Discussing contraception, and reproductive health, miscarriages and elective abortions are part of the medical care that we give to our women [in Oklahoma],” she said, adding that the topic is part of a broader conversation around reproductive health for both and women.
Medically speaking, there are similarities between what is known as miscarriage and abortion, but Dr. Clarke said patients should not be concerned about getting help.
“Effectively they are the same thing,” added the physician. “In terminology we call a miscarriage ‘spontaneous abortion’,” she said, also making a distinction on an elective termination, what is often traditionally known as an abortion.
“There is so much speculation around the court decision in Oklahoma [making it one of the most restrictive in the country; if someone is having a miscarriage because of a problem they’re having with the pregnancy, there should be no reason they should not seek help from their physician,” she added.
“Women [who miscarry] are not alone, she continued, adding that miscarriage in the first trimester is common, and up to 30% of all pregnancies end in spontaneous miscarriage. Many more procedures are done because of gynecological issues that we take care of all the time.”
In an interview Monday with KFOR, medical student Ian Peake said he wasn’t surprised at the decision.
“I remember lawyers saying [before I started medical school] that what we [thought would be] a medical right to an abortion [back then] is going to be gone,” he stated.
Peake, a third year medical student at the University of Oklahoma said he plans to specialize in obstetrics and gynecology, with a special interest in labor and delivery.
“[But] are older providers going to be afraid to train us things like the management of miscarriage? I don’t know,” he added., saying that medication for abortion can also be used for miscarriage management as well.
In February, the Guttmacher Institute released new data showing that in 2022, medication abortion accounted for 54% of all abortions in the United States.
Abortion care and other termination training is not offered at Oklahoma’s two medical schools. Both programs provided statements to KFOR Monday:
The OU College of Medicine’s curriculum does not include abortion education and training for medical students. However, there are discussions around how the process of surgical abortion is similar to dilation and curettage used for patients with miscarriages, as well as the importance of identifying and being sensitive to personal emotions and values in situations of patient-provider moral conflict specifically surrounding the topic of abortion.Department of Marketing and Communications, The University of Oklahoma
Per OSU-CHS, this SCOTUS decision will have no impact on our medical school curriculum.Oklahoma State University
While the path forward overall seems unclear, the physician and the budding physician are in agreement on one thing, in particular.
“The fight is going to continue for a long time to come,” said Ian.
“We’re all in wait and see mode,” added Dr. Clarke. “The overturn of Roe v. Wade is not the end of what we’re talking about.”