UC San Francisco Chancellor Sam Hawgood, MBBS, and faculty joined U.S. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Representative Jackie Speier in an August 26 roundtable on women’s health and the state of abortion care in the nation.
The event, which coincided with Women’s Equality Day, aimed to support women’s reproductive rights in light of the June 24 U.S. Supreme Court ruling that overturned the federal right to abortion care, as well as the movements nationwide to curtail other freedoms, such as birth control and marriage equality.
“Unimaginable pain is being inflicted on women around the country,” said Speaker Pelosi, noting the surge in women registering to vote. “American women today are not as free as their mothers … It’s an injustice that we will not tolerate and cannot stand.”
Speakers included Eleanor Drey, MD, who leads the Women’s Option Center at Zuckerberg San Francisco General Hospital (ZSFG); Ushma Upadhyay, PhD, MPH, professor of Obstetrics, Gynecology and Reproductive Sciences, who co-led the UCSF Turnaway Study on the long-term adverse effects of unwanted pregnancy; Asmara Gebre, a nurse midwife at ZSFG; Gilda Gonzales, chief executive of Planned Parenthood Northern California; and Shannon Olivieri Hovis, director of NARAL Pro-Choice California.
Access to evidence-based reproductive health services is a growing health equity challenge, particularly for communities of color, low-income women, and undocumented people.
Both Drey and Gonzales said their clinics are starting to see patients arriving for care from across the country, including Texas, Florida, Georgia and Tennessee, where abortion access has already been severely restricted. The speakers estimate that the current and expected abortion restrictions could affect as many as 30 million women nationwide.
“Another downstream effect that we’re starting to see is an OB/Gyn work force drain from forced-birth states,” Drey said, noting that women’s health professionals are leaving these states because they are unable to offer the high standard of care they’re trained to provide or guide at-risk patients on their full options.
“UCSF is nationally recognized for its research on abortion,” added Upadhyay, who is a public health social scientist at UCSF. “And what the research shows is that the Supreme Court ruling… goes directly against science. Research shows that overturning Roe will be devastating for people and their families for years to come.”
Attendees at the event at the Mission Bay campus also included Talmadge E. King, Jr., MD, dean of the UCSF School of Medicine and vice chancellor for medical affairs, and Suresh Gunasekaran, chief executive officer and president of UCSF Health.
“The ruling to overturn Roe v. Wade rolled back a crucial constitutional right that is already changing the way women access reproductive health care in many states across the country,” Chancellor Hawgood said. “As a result, access to evidence-based reproductive health services is a growing health equity challenge, particularly for communities of color, low-income women, and undocumented people.”