Texas health department appoints anti-abortion OB-GYN to maternal mortality committee

Austin, Texas — The Texas Health Department has appointed an outspoken anti-abortion gynecologist to a committee that reviews pregnancy-related deaths, as doctors have warned that the state’s restrictive abortion ban is endangering women’s lives.

Dr. Ingrid Skop was one of the new appointees to the Texas Maternal Morality and Morbidity Review Committee, which was announced last week by the Texas Department of State Health Services. Her term starts on June 1.

The commission, which collects data on pregnancy-related deaths, makes recommendations to the Legislature on best practices and policy changes and is expected to assess the impact of abortion laws on maternal mortality.

Skop, who has worked as a gynecologist for more than 30 years, is vice president and director of medical affairs at the Charlotte Lozier Institute, an anti-abortion research group. Skop will be the committee’s rural representative.

Skop, who has worked in San Antonio for most of her career, told the Houston Chronicle that she has “often cared for women traveling long distances from the pregnancy deserts of rural Texas, including women who suffered complications from abortions.”

Texas has one of the most restrictive abortion bans in the U.S., and doctors have sought clarity on the state’s medical exemption, which allows abortion to save a woman’s life or prevent the impairment of a major bodily function. Doctors have said the exemption is too vague, making it difficult to provide life-saving care for fear of repercussions. A doctor convicted of performing an illegal abortion in Texas could face up to 99 years in prison, a $100,000 fine and lose his medical license.

Skop has said that medical associations are not providing doctors with proper guidance on this matter. She also shared more controversial views, saying during a 2021 Congressional hearing that victims of rape or incest as young as 9 or 10 can carry a pregnancy to term.

Texas’ abortion ban has no exception for cases of rape or incest.

The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, which says abortion is “inherently linked to maternal health,” said in a statement that members of the Texas commission must be “unbiased, free from conflicts of interest and focused on appropriate standards of care.” The organization noted that anti-abortion bias has already led to “compromised” analysis, citing research articles co-authored by Skop and others affiliated with the Charlotte Lozier Institute.

Earlier this year, a medical journal retracted studies supported by the Charlotte Lozier Institute that claimed to show harm from the abortion pill mifepristone, citing the authors’ conflicts of interest and flaws in their research. Two of the studies were cited in a pivotal Texas court ruling that threatened access to the drug.