Seminar Series – Beneath the Sword of Damocles: Moral Obligations of Physicians in a post-Dobbs landscape with Anne Drapkin Lyerly, MD

Monday, Feb 26, 2024
12:00 pm - 1:00 pm
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Bloomberg School of Public Health Feinstone Hall
615 N. Wolfe Street
Baltimore, MD

In the wake of the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision in Dobbs vs Jackson Women’s Health Clinic, a growing web of state laws now restrict access to abortion. Though most laws provide narrow exceptions for abortion to protect the life or health of the pregnant person, uncertainties around these laws have resulted in refusals of potentially lifesaving care, putting pregnant persons in harm’s way and creating immense moral distress for the physicians who care for them. How should doctors respond when the law prohibits providing care necessary to mitigate a serious threat to the health or life of a pregnant person?  How should they balance their moral obligations to provide care against their moral obligations to obey the law? When, if ever, do physicians have a moral obligation to break the law? This talk considers these questions as well as potential responses by physicians – and institutions — to the current crisis in reproductive health care.

Annie Lyerly, MD, MA is Professor of Social Medicine at the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill. She is also Research Professor in Obstetrics and Gynecology. Her research addresses socially and morally complex issues in women’s health and reproductive medicine, with a focus on how people assign meaning to reproductive events. A central goal of her work is to inform and reframe debates based on the views of those most profoundly affected by them, and to appropriately weight these individuals’ interests in shaping reproductive health care.