BISF Hosts Expert Panel on Abortion Health Policy

BISF Hosts Expert Panel on Abortion Health Policy

Maria Korkas / Drummer

By Maria Morkas 05/10/22 00:04

On September 29, the Baker Institute Student Forum hosted an expert panel on abortion health care. The panel discussed topics such as abortion from a health care provider’s perspective, abortion advocacy, and building a culture and community of trust at the university level.

Panelists included Dr. Rola El-Serag, director of the Center for Health and Biosciences at the Baker Institute, Dr. Robert Carpenter and Dr. Claire Horner of Baylor College of Medicine, public health policy adviser Natalie Minas and Representative by Planned Parenthood Nikki Banneyer.

BISF Presidents Thomas Kovac and Oliver Hutt-Sierra said they were pleased to see good turnout for an event that touched on an important political issue.



“Although BISF, as a non-partisan organization, does not endorse opinions on political issues and asks neutral questions, the passionate and at times partisan discourse among the panelists demonstrated the importance of dialogue on this topic,” said Kovac, a Wiess College senior, and Hutt-Sierra, a Martel College senior, wrote in an email to the Thresher. “We are always happy to host events that facilitate dialogue on relevant policy topics and look forward to hosting more events this semester.”

El-Serag said she believes health care policy should be guided by scientific data and not by other factors, such as ideology.

“We have scientific data that can guide us in developing, creating or developing legislation that is in the best interest of the well-being of women in our society… Our role as scientists and providers of health care is to provide this data and translate it. into meaningful legislation,” El-Serag said.

Allison Stocks, president of the Planned Parenthood chapter at Rice, said she believes abortion is necessary health care, whether elective or medically required, and should be a right between the patient and his doctor.

“I think it’s a protected right, which has been enshrined in [Roe v. Wade]and the reversal of it was contrary to decidedsaid Stocks, a Lovett College junior.

El-Serag said that from a public health perspective, health is seen as more than just disease, but also includes the social determinants of health. According to the World Health Organization, public health includes all aspects of well-being, such as mental health, as these elements impact outcomes such as reproductive health.

“We are not just talking about women [whose] lives are at risk because they have a certain underlying medical condition,” El-Serag said. “But we do know, for example, that when women have no choice and are denied abortions, there is data that supports that … there are several aspects of their lives that are negatively affected, [like] their socio-economic impacts.

Stocks said she thinks it’s important to have conversations with education experts, policy advisers, doctors, lawyers and friends about abortion because it’s great to learn from.

“Any conversation that brings up abortion normalizes it and more,” Stocks said. “And that needs to be normalized because it’s a medical procedure that’s not politicized in other countries for a reason; it’s not something to debate. But it’s also something that even when it was legal and under Roe vs. Wade, [when] people could get an abortion when they needed or wanted one, it was always stigmatized.

El-Serag said it was important for every woman, or advocate for a woman, to understand the seriousness of the reproductive health situation in the United States and to be knowledgeable about the legislation and the consequences of both.

“It’s an attack on a woman’s ability to decide what’s best for her health. And that, in my mind, is a fundamental insult to a woman’s right to determine her future,” El-Serag said. “But also from a medical point of view, it interferes with the very important patient-caregiver relationship; this is part of the informed consent process that is so important in enabling women to make the best decisions for themselves from a health perspective.

In an email to the Thresher, Juliana Phan, Outreach Director for BISF, said they organized this event because they felt it was necessary to have this discussion with people like students, who are particularly affected by abortion policies.

“I understand that events like these can’t do much – conversation and discussion is just that, and knowing a political situation is not the same as changing it,” Phan wrote, a senior from Lovett College. “If it is within their ability to do so, I hope at least some people who attended the event are motivated to take this information and use it to stand up for what they believe in.”

El-Serag said that from a political point of view, it is a question of voting and that changes must be made at the state level.

“It will be very interesting to see the outcome of this next legislative session because there are a lot of laws… [about] reproductive health rights,” El-Serag said. “I personally think it will depend on how serious a problem is for women in the state vis-a-vis women of lower socio-economic status. If this is a big enough issue to get them to the polls to vote, then we could get somewhere, but I’m not sure there’s enough awareness yet of the seriousness of the situation .



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