A decade ago, the US Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) put out a report warning that doctors were treating too many women in a way that was “inconsistent with the care of women”.
Now, the department is urging the American Medical Association to end its association with a doctor who once said that “some women have an urge to rape their partner”.
A doctor at a Texas hospital recently told the Guardian he thinks women are “losing control” of their own bodies and “they’re looking for the biggest bang for their buck”.
The statement from Dr Matthew Healy, who heads the obstetrics and gynecology department at the University of Texas at Austin, comes as the US Congress is preparing to take up a bill that would ban doctors from giving abortions after 20 weeks of pregnancy.
In a speech last week, Senator Tom Cotton, a Republican from Arkansas, called for the bill to “reject the notion that women should be denied healthcare simply because they don’t want to be pregnant”.
Healy said that his own practice, which he chairs, is “totally committed to the care and protection of women and their fetuses”.
He said that women often seek help for their reproductive health at his clinics.
“They want to know how the process is going, whether they’re feeling good, whether there’s any discomfort, whether it’s affecting their ability to have an abortion,” he said.
But the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has issued several warnings about the risks of abortion in recent years.
Last year, it warned that a rise in abortion-inducing drugs could be linked to the rise in sexual assault and domestic violence, as well as increased risk of miscarriage.
Earlier this year, the CDC warned that the rise of so-called “partial-birth abortion” was threatening to increase “unnecessary and unsafe abortions”.
Dr Healy has a long history of making inflammatory comments about women’s bodies, and he was a frequent critic of the National Abortion Federation in the US, a major abortion rights group.
Healy told the AP that his statement had nothing to do with the legislation he was speaking out about, and that the statement was part of an “advocacy” campaign.
He said he did not regret the statement.
“I have no problem with any physician making the statement that women have this desire,” he told the Associated Press news agency.
“The issue is that physicians have a responsibility to make informed and respectful decisions about their patients.”
The AP reported that the bill, called the Prenatal Information Privacy Act, is intended to make it more difficult for doctors to withhold information about a woman’s health, or even her pregnancy.
“We are concerned that this bill could potentially place an undue burden on the health care provider in their role to protect women from the risks that a woman faces from abortion,” Dr Healey said in a statement.
The bill has been approved by both the House and Senate, but there are significant concerns about its effectiveness.
According to a 2016 analysis by the Associated Care Law Project, “it would effectively eliminate or severely limit the ability of health care providers to determine what information a patient has voluntarily shared with them or to provide that information to third parties”.
Critics have questioned the bill’s impact on abortion clinics, saying that women could simply be turned away or forced to pay a large bill for a procedure they may not want to do.
The law would also have a chilling effect on providers who wish to share medical information about women, and the bill does not require a court order before doctors can share this information.
The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG) said that while the law would allow for doctors’ decisions to be kept private, it would have the unintended consequence of placing women at greater risk of harm from abortion, and therefore prevent their access to care.
The ACOG said that it has long opposed restrictions on abortion access and that it would not support legislation that “prohibits women from exercising their constitutional right to make their own reproductive health decisions without undue interference”.