After leaving a so-called ‘abortion desert,’ this physician worries about what’s subsequent : NPR


Dr. Anne Banfield poses for a portrait near her home in California, Maryland, on May 21, 2024.

Anne Banfield left West Virginia in early 2022 and is now an OB-GYN in Maryland.

Amanda Andrade-Rhoades for NPR


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Amanda Andrade-Rhoades for NPR

When the Supreme Court docket overturned Roe v. Wade in 2022, states scrambled to enact their very own authorized insurance policies to manage abortion, and a patchwork sample emerged throughout the nation. Whereas some states protected and even expanded abortion rights and entry, others severely curtailed it — like West Virginia.

“West Virginia has at all times had areas which were deserts in different types of well being care,” says Dr. Anne Banfield, an OB-GYN who gives abortion providers and left the state in early 2022. “And so these ladies actually, in that state, or anybody who wants full-service reproductive care, typically should journey huge distances, creating these deserts, as we name them, the place providers simply aren’t accessible.”

Now, Banfield is anxious about what the 2024 election might convey, and what new modifications or restrictions might come.

“I used to be, I suppose, very naive,” Banfield informed NPR about her mindset for years earlier than leaving West Virginia. “It by no means crossed my thoughts then that I’d ever dwell in a post-Roe world.”

Subsequent-door states with vastly totally different insurance policies

When the Dobbs resolution prevailed, West Virginia’s state legislature acted rapidly to make abortion unlawful with only a few exceptions. The story in neighboring Maryland was totally different. Sensing that Roe was in peril, Maryland state legislators launched quite a few payments in early 2022 to guard abortion rights. One invoice that handed shall be up for a referendum vote this fall, and Maryland voters will determine whether or not or to not enshrine abortion rights in an modification to their state structure.

Banfield now practices in a rural space of southern Maryland, and mentioned she doesn’t have the identical issues about being an abortion supplier as she had in West Virginia, nor does she really feel the identical sort of strain she beforehand felt to interact in political activism across the concern.

“In Maryland, sure, there are nonetheless issues, after all, that as an OB-GYN usually are not issues I’d assist which are launched into the legislature,” she mentioned. However she added that these points “are far more few and much between” in comparison with West Virginia.

Dr. Anne Banfield poses for a portrait on a dock near her home in California, Maryland, on May 21, 2024.

Banfield is now looking forward to the 2024 election and past.

Amanda Andrade-Rhoades for NPR


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Amanda Andrade-Rhoades for NPR

Nonetheless, Banfield mentioned she had at the very least come to worth her relationship with the group in Elkins, Wv. whereas she was there. She mentioned she by no means obtained any sort of abuse or threats that some suppliers face, and credit that, partly, to the truth that her former clinic solely supplied medically-necessary abortions, and never so-called elective procedures.

“If you happen to hear a narrative locally as a result of you understand anyone’s cousin or sister, they are going to inform you the half about, ‘Oh, it was horrible, the newborn had no mind,’ or… ‘her water had damaged and he or she obtained sick,’” Banfield mentioned of the reactions she would hear. However in a state the place a majority of residents in years previous have mentioned abortions needs to be unlawful in nearly all instances, Banfield mentioned there was a restrict to a few of her neighbors’ understanding.

“You do not essentially hear different tales … like, ‘The affected person had 4 different youngsters. She was on two types of contraception and obtained pregnant and knew she could not afford to have one other child,’” Banfield mentioned. “Effectively, perhaps you do not take into account {that a} good motive for an abortion, nevertheless it certain as hell is for anyone else.”

Fascinated with what 2024 and past might convey

Banfield says she nonetheless has many buddies in Elkins, and not too long ago attended commencement for her god-daughter there. She just isn’t certain she would have left the state primarily based on the Dobbs resolution alone, however that working towards in Maryland means she and her sufferers have extra assets and choices to make the most effective resolution for his or her well being. And whereas she is pretty assured within the state of abortion rights in Maryland, she is anxious about what might occur on the federal stage.

“My larger concern for Maryland could be if there could be a federal [anti-abortion] invoice handed. After which clearly we’re all caught in the identical boat,” she mentioned.

As Banfield seems to be forward to November, she is discouraged by one other Biden-Trump rematch. And regardless of President Joe Biden’s promise to guard abortion entry, and former President Donald Trump’s pledge to go away the difficulty as much as particular person states, Banfield says there are different unknowns that fear her.

“One of many issues that Maryland had finished was to place in place a protect legislation to attempt to defend suppliers right here in Maryland from the results of legal guidelines in states which have restrictions,” she defined. “However we do not know that when one among us flies into the state of Texas, might your title be on a listing? We do not know that these restrictive states aren’t going to attempt to do extra issues to forestall sufferers from touring to succeed in care.”

Nonetheless, Banfield urges voters to concentrate to their native and state candidates as a lot because the presidential election. The Home and the Senate, she mentioned, are those who would both ship a federal abortion invoice to the president’s desk, or kill it earlier than it even obtained there.

“Please exit and vote on your native elected officers and on your senators and on your legislators,” she mentioned. “As a result of they make such a distinction in what occurs and what truly goes to the president’s desk.”



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