Emily Huffstetler: Northam Right on Womens' Health

This article originally appeared in the Daily Progress on July 21, 2017

"How are the babies?" Ralph Northam asks me when I first meet him. As an ob-gyn, I could talk about delivering babies all day, and I am touched that Ralph remembers my profession after having heard about it through my husband.

But then again, Ralph is a doctor who happens to be a politician — not the other way around. When you speak with him, you are struck by how genuine, caring, and passionate he is about his work. You would want to get your sick child to see him for care.

Perhaps it is Ralph’s experience as a doctor that gives him the pragmatism to make him a good politician. My husband teases me that, as an ob-gyn, I am a one-issue voter. While that is not entirely true, my interest in women’s health care is paramount.

Wherever folks lie on the pro-life/pro-choice spectrum, I think we can all agree that decreasing the number of abortions and unintended pregnancies is a good thing. And Ralph is proposing funding to do just that.

There was an experiment in Colorado, started in 2009, that provided women with free, long-acting, reversible contraceptives such as IUDs, in the hope of reducing both unintended pregnancies and abortions. They found that, in the course of four years, teenage birth rates decreased by 40 percent and abortions decreased by 35 percent. Ralph proposed funding for a similar program in Virginia. This is a pragmatic approach to a problem that has strong feelings on both sides.

An ob-gyn is present on some of the happiest and hardest days of a woman’s life. I have shared the joyous tears of a woman finding out she is pregnant, as well as the heartbreak of a woman having lost her baby. And I discuss difficult choices with women every day at my job.

How women make these incredibly personal decisions must be up to the women themselves, with support from their doctors and consultation with their clergy. A physician’s job is to counsel her patients based on medical science, not based on directives from Richmond or Washington. Ralph Northam understands this. It’s why he opposed the transvaginal ultrasound mandate that would have dictated how physicians practice medicine.

I am a physician, and I support Ralph Northam for governor.