Atlanta doctors reluctant to treat miscarriages fearing criminal penalty

A healthcare professional performs an ultrasound scan.
A healthcare professional performs an ultrasound scan.(CBS Newspath)
Published: Jul. 21, 2022 at 11:08 PM EDT
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ATLANTA, Ga. (CBS46) - Under Georgia’s heartbeat law, metro Atlanta doctors say they’re concerned to treat miscarriages, as it is the same procedure used for abortions. In fear of risking criminal penalties, physicians may turn more women away who seek the surgery.

“At what point can we do our job without having to worry about the laws that have been put in place,” questioned Dr. Didi Saint Louis.

What was once considered common practices now feel like controversial politics - that’s how Atlanta gynecologist Saint Louis describes the procedure used for miscarriages and abortions.

“From a medical perspective, there’s really no difference. It is the exact same procedure.”

It’s commonly referred to as “D & C” or dilation and curettage. Physicians dilate the cervix, then remove parts of the uterus lining.

Typically when a patient is experiencing a miscarriage, an OBGYN may advise three options: natural process, pills, or surgery - the “D & C.” The options depend on safety risks.

However, Saint Louis is now hesitant to offer the surgical option out of fear of being criminally charged with performing an abortion.

“More physicians being very reluctant either in the emergency room or in their offices being very uncomfortable.” Adding, “a lot of women will get turned away and be told to go home and [naturally] ‘finish’ the process at home.”

Allison Coffman says having the choice between all three options was crucial for her recovery.

“I needed a D&C my first miscarriage,” she recalled.

Had Georgia’s heartbeat bill, HB481, been in effect in 2020 during her crisis, she believes she would not be the same.

“Delay in care is excruciating and very traumatic when you’re undergoing a miscarriage.” Coffman continued, “waiting a day or two can feel like a lifetime, you know, when you’re experiencing a loss.”

As director of Amplify Georgia, Coffman is advocating for the repeal of HB481. Arguing, it’s tying the hands of healthcare providers and patients well beyond just those seeking abortions.

Dr. Saint Louis echoed, “politicians do not belong in a patient’s room.”