Countering the Town Hallers: A Physician Speaks Out

Dr. Pratima Gupta

I refuse to let the anti-health reform demonstrators represent me or my patients. As an ob/gyn, I can say unequivocally that our country needs health care reform now, and it must provide comprehensive reproductive health care to all.

I refuse to let the anti-health
reform demonstrators represent me or my patients. As an obstetrician/gynecologist,
I can say unequivocally that our country needs health care reform now,
and this reform must provide comprehensive reproductive health care
to all.  

I am going to Nancy Pelosi’s
office to say so, with a petition in hand signed by hundreds of other
physicians, medical students, and people concerned about reproductive
health. Please
add your name.

Show Congress that you stand for a changed health care system that takes
care of women and families.  

As I plan my visit to my Congresswoman,
doctors and medical students in other states are also scheduling appointments
at their representatives and senators’ district offices. They, too,
will bring the petition, showing legislators that we stand together
in support of health reform and reproductive health care.  

During my visit, I hope to
talk with the Speaker and her staff about my patients. I see women who
can’t pay for the most basic health services-including Pap smears,
birth control prescriptions, STD testing and treatment, abortion, and
prenatal care. I see women get sick because they have not had this medical
attention – going without reproductive health care can affect a woman’s
health for her entire life. Their illnesses prevent them from caring
for their families and holding down their jobs.  

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Just this week I saw Tara,
a 27-year-old mother of two who was pregnant again after giving birth
in January. Tara’s first child is
3, and he has hydrocephalus, an excess of fluid on the brain. He needs
frequent medical attention to avoid brain damage.
After her second child was born, Tara went on the pill to make sure
that she wouldn’t get pregnant again. But a few months ago she
was laid off and lost her health insurance.
She could no longer afford her birth control pills.
Now because of a broken condom, she will add
a third child to a young family already under tremendous emotional and
financial strain. Any plan for health reform
must guarantee comprehensive reproductive health care so that women
like Tara can have children when they are ready, not when circumstances
force them to. 

I became a physician because
I wanted to heal. How can I keep women well when they can lose their
health insurance at a moment’s notice?
What can I do when patients need reproductive health care but their
insurance plans omit or pay too little for fundamental services?
How can I help the many women whose
jobs don’t offer insurance at all?  

According to a survey by the
Commonwealth Fund, 52% of women in the United States did not have the
money to visit a doctor about a medical problem, fill a necessary prescription,
or receive follow-up care. This is our nation’s status quo, a system
that routinely prices women out of health care. Indeed, some insurance
companies charge women as much as 45% more than men for individual policies
just because they are female. 

I want to help everyone stay
healthy, not just those fortunate enough to have insurance plans that
meet their medical and financial needs. With health care reform, Congress
has a chance to help all women and their families. If women could depend
on a set of affordable reproductive health care benefits, no matter
what insurance plan they have, they would stay healthier longer, strengthening
their families, workplaces, and society at large.  

I am going to Representative
Pelosi’s office because it is time for Congress to treat reproductive
health as a serious medical concern instead of a political football.
I encourage you to join me. Please consider
bringing the petition to your senator or representative so that we reach
as many members of Congress as possible during the August recess. Physicians
for Reproductive Choice and Health, the group behind the petition and
of which I am a board member, will help you arrange your visit, send
you the petition with the names to date, and provide you with talking
points about health reform and reproductive health. You will see more
details about delivering the petition once you sign it

Already, hundreds of people
have shown that they demand a health care reform plan
that includes reproductive health care services. I will be proud to
present my name and yours to the Speaker of the House.  

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Reproductive rights are a public health issue. That's a fact.

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