Since its recent leak, the draft opinion that would overturn Roe v. Wade has occupied the mental space of many. The federal protection of a person’s right to obtain an abortion, a critical part of their reproductive rights, may soon be eroded.

Many people are passionate about this topic and have voiced concerns from various perspectives. But understanding the clinical perspective — and the people this ruling affects — is important in guiding the conversation.

First, abortion as a clinical procedure is safe.

In the United States, the mortality rate for legal abortions is fewer than 1 death per 100,000 abortions. This is much lower than the mortality rate from abortions in countries where there are more restrictive laws. Overall, studies have shown that countries with fewer restrictions on abortion have lower maternal mortality rates.

According to the World Health Organization, each year 4.7 to 13.2 percent of all maternal deaths can be attributed to unsafe abortions.

Access to safe, legal abortions — as with timely access to healthcare in general — can prevent unnecessary complications and death. But in many communities, both locally and globally, strict regulations have impacted the safety of people seeking the procedure, as have other barriers to access like transportation and financial challenges.

Those of us in the medical community have been focused on improving Black maternal health. But the potential overturn of Roe v. Wade would be in direct opposition to this goal, as the effects of this ruling would disproportionately impact People of Color.

Second, protecting abortion rights does not increase the rate of abortions.

Overall, abortion rates in the United States have been on the decline since 2010, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s surveillance data. Most of these abortions are performed in early pregnancies. The majority of legal abortions in this country take place at less than 9 weeks of gestational age.

Pregnancy is not without risks and these risks increase with maternal age. Maternal health risks are potential reasons for proceeding with an abortion. These scenarios are real — mothers having to decide between terminating a pregnancy and delaying cancer treatment, delivering a stillborn, or encountering health complications that leave them unable to care for their newborn.

The restriction of safe, legal abortion makes tough medical decisions even more arduous. 

Lastly, overturning Roe v. Wade would open the door to the loss of privacy rights.

Data collected in ovulation and period tracking apps could be used against someone. While tech companies have privacy laws protecting that data, with the overturn of the ruling, tech companies may be forced to share such data in legal proceedings.

In this era of widely shared personal health data and more easily accessible electronic health records, could this information be used against a patient or provider in the case of abortion becoming criminalized? What will the provider do to protect their patients’ rights?

Data such as search history, purchases, and geolocation near an abortion clinic can all become part of an investigation with the overturn of this ruling. Data is powerful and its use in healthcare can help find cures and new treatments. However, the use of data in this instance can help accelerate a surveillance state that is beyond the protection of HIPAA. 

As a physician, I have seen the impact of untimely care, lack of access, and improper care. These effects can not only impact someone’s physical and mental well-being, but they can also impede the long-term potential of that individual as well.

When it comes to the health of an individual, people will — at all costs — seek what they believe to be the most effective treatment or solution.

The consequences of this ruling will include unnecessary complications and potential lives lost. The protection of our health data through HIPAA can also be at risk when the legality of health procedures comes into question. 

We have thrived on the progress of many aspects of our lives. Progress means reflecting on the past mistakes of humanity to improve the quality of life of those who come after us. I certainly hope, for the sake of future generations, that we aren’t stalling our efforts on the health access front. 

Jenny Yu, MD FACS joined the Healthline Medical Affairs Team with experience in clinical research, education, and clinical practice. She also has experience in clinical operations, research processes, and innovation. Her passion is to educate in the realm of conditions, prevention, and wellness.