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Christina E. Broadwell, Published March 26 2013

Letter: Returning to practice medicine in my home state not likely now

I have never been embarrassed to be from North Dakota … until now. I grew up in North Dakota, and I proudly received my medical degree from the University of North Dakota. I love North Dakota and the people I grew up with and, in fact, I believe it is only through them that I achieved my lifelong goal of becoming a physician.

I am now a board-certified obstetrician and gynecologist practicing reproductive medicine in Madison, Wis. I have traveled to numerous states and countries during my education and training. In those journeys, I have met many who believe that North Dakota and the people who come from the state are less than those from other regions. I have always disagreed wholeheartedly. I have engaged in debates with colleagues, friends and strangers that leave me winded about my joy, pride and loyalty to the state of North Dakota … until now.

Measures recently passed by the North Dakota Legislature and signed by the governor to restrict every woman’s ability to make decisions and seek treatment for their reproductive health makes me embarrassed.

Despite the heated rhetoric, I believe that the overarching goal from both sides of the abortion debate is to improve the lives of women and decrease the number of abortions performed. I also know and have witnessed that until that number is zero, women have the right to safe and affordable medical care to make their choice. Making abortion illegal will not end it; women will suffer, many will die and the dignity of life is lost.

I am disheartened to see the lack of accompanying measures to provide reliable, affordable medical services to help reduce the number of unplanned pregnancies. I also see measures being defeated to help provide for the nutritional and educational needs of children within communities. Values dedicated to respecting and promoting life should not end with birth, and representatives have failed to stand in support of that fact.

Upon my completion of medical training, I considered moving back to North Dakota to practice medicine. There are many days that I felt regret for the decision not to, wishing I had returned to my home to help treat patients, work with wonderful health care providers and educate the young, talented medical professionals who come from the state of North Dakota. This is the first time that I do not regret that decision. I do not know if I can return to a state that does not value women, women’s education and women’s health.

The only regret I have is not being present locally to stand against this. Since I cannot be there physically, I will be there in voice and be an outside representative of my state. I will continue to tell everyone I meet that senators and representatives of North Dakota passing these measures do not represent everyone from my home state, and that there are many of us, both inside and outside of the state, who are embarrassed by their actions.

Broadwell, MD, is assistant professor, obstetrics and gynecology, University of Wisconsin, Madison.