Texas doctor who said nine-year-olds can give birth safely appointed to maternal mortality committee

One of the US’s leading anti-abortion activists has been appointed to a Texas health commission charged with reviewing maternal mortality.

The move worries reproductive justice advocates, who say the state’s abortion ban — one of the strictest in the U.S. — has endangered the lives of pregnant women. The appointment could undermine the committee’s ability to accurately examine the law’s impact on deaths during and in the immediate aftermath of pregnancy, they say.

“This appointment speaks volumes about how seriously certain state leaders are taking the issue of maternal mortality,” said Kamyon Conner, executive director of the Texas Equal Access Fund, an abortion support group that advocates for reproductive health equity. “It’s yet another sign that the state is more interested in advancing their anti-abortion agenda than protecting the lives of pregnant Texans.”

Dr. Ingrid Skop, a San Antonio-based gynecologist, has long spoken about her views on abortion.

Skop is vice president and director of medical affairs for the National Anti-Abortion Research Group Charlotte Lozier Institute and is a member of the American Association of Pro-Life Obstetricians and Gynecologists. She is also a plaintiff in a lawsuit before the U.S. Supreme Court that seeks to revoke the Food and Drug Administration’s approval of the leading abortion drug mifepristone, which she says is “dangerous.” years of evidence demonstrate that the drug is safe. She has written a number of research articles that were ultimately retracted due to misleading errors.

Skop – who did that called the Supreme Court’s overturning of Roe v Wade “a victory in the battle but not the end of the war” – has advocated forcing victims of rape and incest as young as nine or ten to carry pregnancies to term. “If she is developed enough to menstruate, become pregnant and reach sexual maturity, she can safely give birth to a baby.” Skop said the House Oversight Committee in 2021. Pregnancy at such a young age proves to be fertile significant health risksincluded preeclampsia and infections.

In Texas, Skop has repeatedly testified at the legislature and in court in support of the state’s abortion ban, most recently at a hearing opposite abortion care for Kate Cox, a Dallas woman who asked a judge for emergency access after receiving a fatal fetal diagnosis.

Texas has seen a number of cases in which pregnant women were denied emergency abortions, despite them being life-threatening in some cases pregnancy complications. Research has shown that some patients are forced to do this wait at “death’s door” before doctors, who faced criminal sanctions under the state ban, intervene. But Skop has argued that the problem lies with the judgment of individual doctors, and not with the law itself.

Contrary to the arguments of many experts, Skop believes that abortion is not only prohibited will not lead to an increase in maternal mortality, but can actually help lower those rates. She calls the link between abortion restrictions and risks of maternal mortality “misleading.”

Maternal mortality rates in Texas – under the worst in the U.S – more than doubled between 1999 and 2019. Skop said the Houston Chronicle the high maternal mortality rate in the state “deserves a rigorous debate”.

“There are complex reasons for these statistics, including chronic disease, poverty and difficulties obtaining prenatal care, and I have long been motivated to find ways to improve care for women,” said Skop. “For more than 30 years, I have advocated for both of my patients, a pregnant woman and her unborn child, as have the vast majority of gynecologists who do not perform elective abortions.”

The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists questioned Skop’s appointment, saying it was “crucial” that the parent review committee members were informed by “data, not ideology.” Her bias is relevant because abortion, they note, is inherently linked to maternal health.

“We believe that all members of the MMRC should be unbiased, free from conflicts of interest, and focused on appropriate standards of care when evaluating maternal mortality and morbidity in Texas, which were already at unacceptably high levels even before Texas passed his abortion bans. and limitations,” ACOG said in a statement.

“Bias against abortion has already led to compromised analyzes and ultimately dangerously flawed data,” ACOG says, citing three research articles critical of abortion that Skop co-authored. The investigations were ultimately withdrawn by the scientific publisher for “unwarranted or incorrect factual assumptions,” as well as errors and misleading presentations of the data that demonstrated a “lack of scientific accuracy and invalidate the authors’ conclusions in whole or in part.”

The 23 members Texas Maternal Mortality and Review Boardfounded in 2013 amid a maternal health care crisis, collects data on pregnancy-related deaths.

That of the committee final report showed that 90% of maternal deaths in the state were likely preventable. It is now examining pregnancy-related deaths as of 2020 and plans to examine the impact of state abortion laws on maternal health in the coming years.

Nakeenya Wilson, who nearly lost her life giving birth in Texas, served on the committee as an outspoken community advocate and pushed for data release when the state’s health commissioner delayed publication of the report in 2022. As a voice for people of color, Wilson championed the stories of Black women, who are disproportionately affected by both maternal mortality and national and in Texas.

After legislation eliminated her role as “community advocate” in 2023, Wilson applied for another role on the committee but did not get the job.

Although Skop’s role is intended for a rural community member, she has spent her career in San Antonio, a major city in Texas. Skop, one of the seven new appointeeswill begin her six-year term on June 1.

“As a Black mother who experienced a traumatic pregnancy, I believe I provided necessary life experience and represented my community well,” Wilson said. “We have to ask ourselves: which community does (Skop) represent?”