When Dr. Kumar was a child, he and his family moved to the United States from London. They moved first to Jackson, Mississippi and then finally to Texas where he spent most of his formative years. Seeing first hand the lack of access to health care in this region of the United States inspired Dr. Kumar to pursue a career in medicine.
While attending medical school at Texas Tech, Dr. Kumar became active in their Medical Students for Choice chapter. He says, “Seeing the barriers to abortion in the south and specifically in Texas, I felt very strongly that something had to change. I knew that I wanted to be an abortion provider and that I could go one of 2 routes, OB/GYN or Family Medicine. Family care just made more sense and resonated more with how I felt that medicine should be practiced. It is full spectrum care and a one-stop-shop where I would be able to provide patients with all their medical needs including abortion care.” Unfortunately, there were no family medicine training programs in Texas that offered training in abortion care so Dr. Kumar decided to head to NYC to train at Montefiore Medical Center.
After completing his residency and fellowship in New York, Dr. Kumar moved back to Texas to provide abortion care at Whole Woman’s Health. Dr. Kumar says, “I always knew there were more barriers to care in Texas but until I got here and started providing care, I didn’t realize how different it was. The most stark difference is that in other states, as a provider, you can easily refer patients out if you encounter a potentially difficult situation, but in Texas, if I do not provide the care, my patients often will not be able to receive care elsewhere. This level of political intrusion creates a greater risk for the provider and the patient.”
With the passage of HB2, accessing abortion care has become even more difficult in Texas. The bill closed nearly half of all clinics in the state, but the same numbers of patients are still in need of care. Dr. Kumar says, “With this restricted access patients now have to wait 2-3 weeks to even see a provider. If HB2 is upheld by the Supreme Court in the Whole Woman’s Health v. Hellerstedt case, only a handful of clinics will remain open in the entire state of Texas. Logistically we will not be able to serve all Texans who need care.”
It is a difficult time to be doing this work but Dr. Kumar says that his patients keep him motivated. “Texas is a big state and some of our patients travel hundreds of miles just to get to the clinic. They have to deal with waiting periods, find funds to pay for their procedure, and even take time off of work. As a provider having to come to the clinic and walk past protestors is really so much less than what our patients go through so it doesn’t seem so bad by comparison.”
In our current climate choosing to become an abortion provider can seem like a very daunting career path, but Dr. Kumar says he can’t imagine doing anything else. He says “for those who are interested in providing abortion care in low-access or ‘hostile’ environments I would recommend visiting one of our clinics and working with us for a week or even a couple days. Hearing the stories and seeing the patients allows you to really understand the need. You will see that it isn’t as scary as it can seem from the outside and that the work is incredibly valuable and rewarding.”
We are so grateful to Dr. Kumar for being on the front-lines in Texas and for providing this basic health care for people who might otherwise have no access at all.