The general practitioner training to perform abortions in Pennsylvania according to Roe v. calf

The day the Supreme Court dismissed Roe v. calfdemanded Dr. Elizabeth Fleming, of western Pennsylvania, is reaching out to fellow physicians in her state and others where abortion is still legal to help meet demand where it is illegal.

“I don’t know how to perform abortions but I’m willing to learn,” she tweeted under the name “Dr. Fleming, Appalachian Medicine Woman” on Friday. “Are we supposed to have a voluntary Rosie the Riveter movement among doctors? A volunteer medical abortion corps?”

Fleming serves an area bordering two states: Ohio, where abortion is now illegal, and West Virginia, where a special session of the Legislature will consider whether an 1848 statute making it a crime applies without abortion roe.

“Ohio and West Virginia are knocking on the door of the western PA,” she noted.

Over the weekend, Fleming attended a short course on performing medical abortions. She also read a guide written by an obstetrician for family doctors who want to expand their practice to include abortion services.

“One of the columns is about bomb threats,” she said. “Patient advice, consumables, staff training. And bomb threats.”

On Monday morning, the 43-year-old mother of four undeterred faxed an FDA form to a pharmaceutical company to order mifepristone, the first of the two drugs needed to be combined to induce an abortion. She can obtain the other, less regulated drug from her usual medical supply store.

“As soon as I have the medicine, I’ll start,” she told The Daily Beast.

She saw evidence online that other doctors were beginning to respond to the anticipated need, much like they had done at the height of COVID when they volunteered to leave their usual areas of practice to work in the intensive care units.

“There’s a lot of GPs on Twitter now, giving each other links on how to do the workouts and stuff,” Fleming told The Daily Beast. “There seems to be some movement.”

Fleming has also attempted to reach out to the American Academy of Family Physicians (AAFP) to train interested physicians in performing abortions.

“Most of the training is obviously as in residence,” she said. “But there are procedure clinics for practicing doctors where we learn other procedures like knee injections or other things. I mean they could set up procedure clinics for doctors who want to learn.”

Meanwhile, Fleming has begun learning about manual vacuum suction, a procedure that is currently part of the training of some emergency medical residents. She believes it could also be taught to doctors in the community.

“Easy,” she said. “Low risk.”

Her practice spans two offices on either side of Pennsylvania’s political divide. Patients in suburban and largely blue Verona, outside of Pittsburgh, responded to the upheaval Roe v. calf as she would have expected. They knew it was coming, but they were still shocked when it happened.

“One of them cried,” Fleming said. “I said, ‘Any questions?’ She says, ‘I can’t think. I have no idea if I have any questions for you.’”

The surprise was in the other office in Grove City, which mainly serves red rural patients.

“The most common opinion I heard was, ‘I’m personally anti-abortion, but I don’t want the government to tell me what to do,'” she recalled. “A similar attitude to ‘I don’t want the government to take my guns away’ is ‘I don’t want the government to tell me or my wife what to do with their bodies.'”

She says they were furious when they learned the ban could affect ectopic pregnancies, in vitro fertilization and cancer treatments.

“They were angry,” she said.

“Our legislature is crazy and they will definitely ban abortion in a second.”

But they still believe in conspiracy theories. One of them had lost a spouse to COVID and still told Fleming the virus wasn’t real. She’s not sure how the abortion issue might affect her votes in the upcoming gubernatorial election between Democrat Josh Shapiro and far-right Republican Doug Mastriano, who supports a six-week ban without exception, not even for rape or incest or the lives of the Mother.

“Our legislature is crazy and they’re definitely going to ban abortion in a second,” Fleming noted.

Fleming assumes that without an abortion she would not have become a doctor at all. She says she was raped in her freshman year of medical school and was still suffering the psychological aftermath in her third year when she became pregnant as a result of contraceptive failure during a consensual relationship.

“I had two kids at the time,” she said, “I had PTSD from a rape … There was just no way I was going to graduate from medical school and there was no way my sanity was going to survive that.”

She then married a conservative Catholic and at times professed his faith.

“We believed that abortion and all forms of contraception and sterilization were wrong,” she recalled, then predicted, “You’re going to get to 100 percent contraception very soon.” And they are 100 percent confident in their hearts that they are saving lives and doing God’s will.”

She had two other children. Her personal beliefs then took a different turn.

“I left marriage in 2019, and when I came out my head was kind of clear,” she recalled.

On Sunday, as Fleming prepared to order mifepristone and offer abortions, women posted pictures of their unwanted babies online. She tweeted a photo of her youngest child, taken when she was around 6 months old. At the time, in the last year of her stay, she had also had a part-time job.

“My unplanned baby,” she wrote. “Who the hell cares? If you are in Ohio or West Virginia, Western PA’s medical community has you covered. We will ensure that no woman is denied the choice of what to do with her body. The mother of this baby just became a proud abortion provider.”

The baby she decided to have is now 6 years old.

“I don’t know what is said to my children and when [her ex-husband] finds out I’m going to start offering abortions,” Fleming told The Daily Beast. “It won’t be nice. But well.”

And in addition to offering abortions, she will continue to form alliances online with other doctors who are determined to address the public health emergency sparked by the Supreme Court decision. She noted on Twitter that less than 10 percent of the country’s doctors at the time were women Roe v. calf became law in 1973. The current figure is almost 40 percent. More than half of medical students are women.

“Shit’s getting real,” said the Applachian medicine woman. “We survived medical training. We are not posh.” The general practitioner training to perform abortions in Pennsylvania according to Roe v. calf


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