By Ashe O
Houston (Texas), Sep 30 (IANS): Dr. Bhavi Kumar, a prominent family physician here, has warned a US house panel of the repercussions of the Texas abortion laws as being the most restrictive in the country and denounced a recent push to scale back access to the procedure nationwide.
In a congressional testimony, the Houston doctor bashed the Texas abortion ban as 'white supremacist agenda'.
"Abortion bans are inherently racist, inherently classist, and fundamentally part of the white supremacist agenda," said Dr. Bhavik Kumar, medical director for primary and transgender care at Planned Parenthood Gulf Coast in Houston. "We don't have to imagine a world where people face the deadly consequences of being denied essential medical care. It's here."
Texas' abortion laws led to 3-day delay for Houston woman's pregnancy loss treatment, he said.
The three-hour hearing, held by the House Committee on Oversight and Reform, followed recent efforts from several prominent Republicans to implement nationwide bans, expanding on the Supreme Court's decision in June to give states the power to restrict the procedure, according to a report in the Houston Chronicle here on Friday.
Earlier this month, Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-South Carolina, said he introduced legislation that would ban abortion after 15 weeks gestation, "when unborn children can feel pain" -- a claim disputed by the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists.
If passed, those laws could prevent Texas patients from accessing abortions in states like New Mexico or Colorado, both of which have become go-to destinations for Texans looking to terminate a pregnancy. Texas is one of 14 states to have banned the procedure, according to the New York Times.
Another four states have restricted abortion at varying stages of pregnancy. Experts say a nationwide ban could worsen the poor maternal health outcomes in the US, which already has the worst rate of maternal deaths in the developed world.
House Republicans described the hearing as an effort by Democrats to gin up votes ahead of the November election and argued against the assertions of Kumar and other experts that abortion is a fundamental part of reproductive health care.
The questioning at times became tense, as GOP lawmakers sought to portray abortion as a dangerous and radical procedure.
They were supported by testimony from Dr. Monique Chireau Wubbenhorst, an anti-abortion OB-GYN who served as a health official during the Trump administration.
Wubbenhorst has filed legal briefs in favour of overturning Roe v. Wade.
At one heated moment during the hearing, Rep. Andrew Clyde, R-Georgia, questioned Kumar's credibility by denying that transgender men can become pregnant. Kumar repeatedly pushed back.
"This is not complicated," Clyde said. "This is medicine," Kumar replied.
Kumar, who has worked at Planned Parenthood in Houston for four years, spoke to the impact of three overlapping abortion bans in Texas, which threaten health care providers with civil lawsuits and criminal penalties for performing the procedure.
Planned Parenthood has since stopped providing abortions but continues to offer other reproductive health care services.
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He said the laws have affected many people seeking abortions in Texas: Survivors of rape and incest, young girls still learning about their bodies, mothers struggling with multiple jobs and children, and people with wanted pregnancies who experience grave complications.
Echoing sentiments from a number of reproductive health care experts in recent months, he told the committee people who lack the resources to seek care elsewhere -- typically low-income patients and people of color -- will bear the brunt of abortion bans.
"Over and over again, we are forced to violate our conscience and our training to turn away patients who need us," said Kumar, who estimates he has over the years performed thousands of abortions.
Kumar recalled one woman who sought a termination at Planned Parenthood after the implementation last year of Senate Bill 8, which allows private citizens to sue providers who terminate pregnancies after about six weeks, before most people know they are pregnant.
The woman worried her abusive partner would find out about the pregnancy, Kumar said. When she was told that doctors could no longer offer the procedure, "she sobbed so loudly people could hear her in the waiting room," Kumar told committee members. She barely made it to the clinic without her partner finding out, Kumar said.
"Going out of state was unthinkable," he said.
A national abortion ban would put patients at an increased risk of death and other poor health outcomes, he said. It also would not stop pregnancy terminations.
"Patients don't care whether they're 6 weeks or 15 weeks," he said. "They know they can't be pregnant. They need care, and they'll go to whatever lengths they can to get that care."