Texas Appoints Extremist, Who Said 9-Year-Olds Are Fine Giving Birth, to Maternal Mortality Committee

Dr. Ingrid Skop is one of the nation’s top anti-abortion OBGYNs and has previously justified abortion bans that lack rape exceptions by arguing children as young as nine can safely remain pregnant.

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Texas Appoints Extremist, Who Said 9-Year-Olds Are Fine Giving Birth, to Maternal Mortality Committee

For years, Texas has been afflicted by one of the worst rates of maternal mortality in the nation, which more than doubled between 1999 and 2019 as Republicans enacted an onslaught of anti-abortion legislation. The state is currently being sued by over a dozen women who say Texas’ total abortion ban jeopardized their lives by denying them emergency abortion care. Now, the state’s maternal mortality committee is in the process of gathering and assessing statewide data on pregnancy-related deaths. But one of the 23-member committee’s seven new appointees is Dr. Ingrid Skop—the controversial anti-abortion OBGYN who’s previously had some very choice words in defense of abortion bans that, like Texas, lack rape exceptions.

In 2021, Skop testified before Congress that these laws are fine because children as young as nine or 10 years old could safely carry a pregnancy—which, objectively, is not true. (Pregnancy at such a young age comes with significant health risks and a substantially greater risk of mortality—that, all on top of the obvious long-term trauma.) “If she is developed enough to be menstruating and become pregnant and reach sexual maturity, she can safely give birth to a baby,” Skop told the House Oversight Committee.

A comment like that should disqualify a medical professional hoping to join any committee even vaguely concerned with pregnant people’s health and safety. (It should also disqualify them from polite society.) That Skop has been appointed to Texas’ maternal mortality committee casts serious doubt on whether the committee will actually help anyone. “For over 30 years, I have advocated for both of my patients, a pregnant woman and her unborn child,” Skop told the Houston Chronicle in an interview published on Tuesday. The American College of Obstetrician and Gynecologists (ACOG) notably rejects the terms “unborn child” and “elective abortion” as medically inaccurate terms.

More recently, in December, Skop testified against Kate Cox, a Dallas woman who unsuccessfully sued to have an abortion for her nonviable pregnancy. Skop argued that despite the serious threats to Cox’s health and future fertility, it still wasn’t a grave enough medical risk to receive an exception. “In my expert opinion… Ms. Cox has not alleged that she has been diagnosed with a life-threatening physical condition aggravated by, caused by, or arising from her pregnancy as required to qualify for the medical exception,” Skop told the Travis County district court.

When the Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade, Skop called it “a victory in the battle but not the end of the war”—and, true to her word, ever since 2022, she’s continued the fight to make abortion care as inaccessible as possible. Skop currently serves as vice president and director of medical affairs for the national anti-abortion research group Charlotte Lozier Institute. She’s also a member of the American Association of Pro-Life Obstetricians and Gynecologists, and a plaintiff in a case that’s currently before the Supreme Court asking it to roll back policies from the Food and Drug Administration in 2016 and 2021 that made medication abortion more accessible. 

The anti-abortion doctors behind this lawsuit cited a study put forth by the Charlotte Lozier Institute as part of their suit, which purports to show the dangers of medication abortion. But earlier this year, that same study was retracted by the medical journal that published it due to research flaws and conflicts of interest from its authors. Extensive, credible research shows medication abortion is highly safe with a low complication rate.

According to the most recent data, the maternal mortality rate in Texas stands at 23.5 maternal deaths per 100,000 births. About half of Texas counties have been recognized as prenatal and maternal care deserts, and a study from the Center for Reproductive Rights in 2017 shows that states with more restrictions on abortion had the highest maternal mortality rates.

Skop’s appointment has been criticized by reproductive health groups and reproductive justice advocates alike, as they see her politics and views of children as being at odds with what should be the maternal mortality committee’s goals. The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists said in a statement this week that members of the committee should be “unbiased, free of conflicts of interest and focused on the appropriate standards of care,” and that anti-abortion politics have led to “compromised” research about maternal health. Kamyon Conner, executive director of the Texas Equal Access abortion fund, told the Guardian that Skop’s “appointment speaks volumes about how seriously certain state leaders are taking the issue of maternal mortality.” She called it “another sign that the state is more interested in furthering their anti-abortion agenda than protecting the lives of pregnant Texans.”

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