The effects of the SCOTUS Dobbs ruling are being felt across the industry.
The overturning of Roe vs. Wade rocked the nation and the industry back in June; so much so that more than 100 women leaders in biotech signed an open letter in response to the court's decision in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health.
The letter expressed the signees' disappointment and outrage with the ruling and added that the Supreme Court ignored the "fundamental rights as women to make personal reproductive health choices and for clinicians to practice evidence-based medicine without fear of reprisal."
Everyone who has a stake in reproductive health— hospitals, physicians, patients and pharma-- are trying to determine the most appropriate way to move forward with women's healthcare.
“We expect that [the] decision will have practical impacts on hospitals and health systems, including on healthcare provided across state lines, EMTALA obligations, maternal health care, the clinician-patient relationship, medical education and access to care for individuals regardless of socioeconomic status," American Hospital Association's General Counsel, Melinda Hatton, said in a June statement. "We are committed to helping our member hospitals and health systems navigate the evolving landscape consistent with AHA’s mission of advancing the health of all individuals and communities.”
AHA declined to provide any additional statements.
Hospitals may find themselves in a precarious situation now that abortion is illegal in some states under certain circumstances. If they follow their previous policies around standards of care, they could break the law. If they follow the new law, they could put some patients' lives in danger. In combination with the risk of medical liability, hospitals now need to be concerned with criminal liability, which is a heavy burden being imposed on them very quickly.
Heather Woolwine, director, public affairs, media relations and presidential communications at MUSC in South Carolina said in accordance with the new law, the hospital's focus will remain on the health of both mother and baby. "When complications arise during a pregnancy, our providers are medically and ethically obligated to explain all options to their patients. MUSC and its care providers will continue to provide the most appropriate and safest care possible while complying with South Carolina law," she said.
The Reproductive Health Access Project, which trains, supports, and mobilizes primary care clinicians to ensure equitable access to sexual and reproductive healthcare, including abortion, says states where abortion is still legal have experienced an "unprecedented rise" in patients who have traveled out of state to seek care. "This increased demand has put enormous strain on existing abortion care providers," the group reports. The Project says it is currently working with more clinicians and health centers than it ever has before, to help fill a critical void in abortion access by providing abortion care in their communities.
"We are already hearing stories of hospitals and clinics having trouble determining how to administer appropriate medical care in light of the restrictions," Daré CEO Sabrina Johnson, one of the women who signed the biotech open letter, said. "As may be expected, most impacted is the provision of medical care to a woman who is pregnant, but the Roe vs. Wade reversal has also impacted the provision of care and counseling to women who are seeking highly effective forms of contraception in light of the reversal."
Johnson continued to note that clinicians have experienced an increase in requests from women seeking highly effective forms of contraception. Many of these women are in their early reproductive years but are requesting tubal ligation. In response clinicians and advocacy groups are working to provide sufficient education so that women understand all of their contraceptive choices, including highly effective reversible methods such as implants.
Men seem to also be changing their reproductive health choices as more younger males seek vasectomies since the ruling. A Massachusetts urologist reported an increase in men seeking vasectomies stemming from the court decision, both nationally and locally, in a Worcester Telegram news article. Mitchell Sokoloff, MD, professor and chair of the Department of Urology at UMass Chan Medical School and UMass Memorial Medical Center, said the increase includes younger men, "who aren’t normally interested in such a dramatic approach to birth control.”
Pharma can contribute
According to Terry Weber, CEO of Biote, this is the opportune time for the industry to increase its efforts on educating patients about the effectiveness of available contraceptives, long-acting reversible contraception, sterilization methods, and the potential healthcare benefits they provide to the patient. It is also time to focus on helping patients evaluate and find the birth control method that best fits their body.
"Information and education are the best ways to enable patients to feel empowered to seek and have confidence in their birth control methods," Weber says.
Debunking myths is a good first step to educating patients. For example, one significant barrier to contraceptive use could be a parent who believes that starting contraception will encourage promiscuity, will interfere with future fertility, or will cause breast cancer. "These myths need to be soundly addressed in the media, in schools and in our medical offices," Weber says.
"Sharing links, developing stories for the media like we are doing right now, giving out brochures and educational pamphlets that talk about common misconceptions, organizing talks in schools are all activities we should be doing to help educate and dispel these myths," she adds.
Several agencies and organizations are trying to bring forth better contraceptive education for patients and physicians. The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services launched the ReproductiveRights.gov public awareness website, which includes a patient fact sheet describing all patients' rights to reproductive care and access to insurance coverage as protected by law. Health insurers must provide coverage for contraceptive services at no cost as required by the Affordable Care Act.
Daré's Johnson says she believes the pharma/biotech industry can help ensure women are empowered to control their reproductive rights by ensuring access to accurate information about all of the contraceptive options available today, including clear information about correct usage and effectiveness.
"In addition, as an industry we can continue to invest in research and development of new contraceptive technologies so that we ensure there are more options available to women that better meet their lifestyle objectives," she says. "The best contraceptive for her is the one she can incorporate reliably into her routine."
“Most impacted is the provision of medical care to a woman who is pregnant, but the Roe vs. Wade reversal has also impacted the provision of care and counseling to women who are seeking highly effective forms of contraception in light of the reversal.”
Sabrina Johnson, CEO, Daré
Robin Robinson is a contributing writer for HealthLeaders.
Reversal of Roe vs. Wade affects every stakeholder in reproductive health.
Hospitals need assistance in administering new reproductive health rule.
Pharma and biotech can help by upping patient education on birth control methods.