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Notes from the Field: Dr. Martha Simmons


Martha - web and blogIn light of last month’s Supreme Court victory in Whole Woman’s Health v. Hellerstedt, we asked Dr. Martha Simmons, a 2015-2016 Reproductive Health and Advocacy Fellow, to share a recent patient experience that she found especially meaningful.

“Danielle*, one of my regular patients, came to me for a Depo Provera shot. Previously, she had been using condoms and Plan B as birth control, but decided that the Depo shot was a better form of contraception for her. During her appointment, she was given a pregnancy test – a standard procedure – that came back negative, and she received the first Depo shot that same day.

A few weeks later, Danielle started feeling pregnant so returned to the health center. This time, her pregnancy test was positive. It turns out she had been pregnant at the time of her first visit, but it was so early on that it didn’t show up in the test. It was a really hard visit. She didn’t want to be pregnant and she had been trying [proactively] to make sure she didn’t become pregnant, and it just didn’t work out. She was frustrated and felt bad about being in this situation. In the end, Danielle decided she wanted an abortion. I felt so lucky to be practicing in New York, where I can be Danielle’s primary care provider and be able to perform the abortion for her without worrying about restrictive laws. I could focus on taking care of her and counseling her through this hard decision.

Danielle’s situation really makes me think about all the times when our patients are trying to make the best choices for themselves, but things don’t always work out perfectly. We talk a lot about increasing contraception to reduce the need for abortion, but as we know, contraception is never a 100% guarantee. Situations [like Danielle’s] remind me even more how much we really need to keep abortion accessible for people, and how much we have to continue working to expand access. [The Whole Woman’s Health v. Hellerstedt decision] was a huge victory for those patients like Danielle in other states where access to abortion is a lot more limited than here in New York, but there’s still more work to do!”

*Pseudonym used to protect patient’s privacy

Dr. Martha Simmons is a 2015-2016 RHAP Reproductive Health and Advocacy Fellow and a primary care physician at a community health center in New York City.

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