HomePoliticsThere are no pro-abortion rights OBGYNs in Congress. These candidates hope...

There are no pro-abortion rights OBGYNs in Congress. These candidates hope to change that.

As Congress grapples with abortion rights two years after the Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade, two doctors specializing in obstetrics and gynecology are hoping to bring their expertise and exam room experiences to Capitol Hill.

Dr. Kristin Lyerly and Dr. Kelly Morrison are running for Congress for the chance to become the only pro-abortion rights OBGYNs on Capitol Hill.

The erosion of abortion rights since the 2022 Supreme Court ruling is part of what prompted Lyerly to run for the Wisconsin House of Representatives, she said in an interview.

“I get to hear the stories directly from my patients and their families. And I think once you’re in the room, you don’t really understand how this affects people,” she said.

Dr.  Kristin Lyerly announces her campaign (Tork Mason / Green Bay Press-Gazette / USA Today Network)

Dr. Kristin Lyerly announces her campaign (Tork Mason / Green Bay Press-Gazette / USA Today Network)

Lyerly has worked as an obstetrician for more than 15 years and has provided care in Wisconsin, where she is seeking a congressional seat in the state’s Eighth District and in neighboring Minnesota. She is running unopposed in the August 13 Democratic primary and would face one of at least three Republican candidates in November, including Tony Wied, who is backed by former President Donald Trump.

She said her practice in Minnesota has not been affected by abortion bans since the ruling, but “what I hear from my colleagues in Wisconsin is very different.” She described several stories of colleagues who feared they could go to jail for counseling women about using abortion-inducing drugs such as mifepristone.

There is “a shudder that comes with these types of laws, it’s the confusion and the misinformation,” Lyerly said.

Morrison, who is running in Minnesota’s Third District and also currently serves in the state Legislature, expressed similar sentiments. She is the only candidate in the state’s Democratic primary, which also takes place on August 13. In November, she will likely face Tad Jude, a lawyer and former Minnesota state lawmaker.

“Midwives and other healthcare providers see something firsthand [abortion] bans and restrictions are impacting people’s health,” said Morrison, who has practiced OBGYN for more than two decades, adding, “When I talk to my colleagues in states that have implemented these bans and restrictions, it’s really scary what is happening in those countries. areas.”

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Minnesota State Senator Kelly Morrison (Sam Woodward / USA Today Network)Minnesota State Senator Kelly Morrison (Sam Woodward / USA Today Network)

Minnesota State Senator Kelly Morrison (Sam Woodward / USA Today Network)

Those stories, she said, are what led her to work to protect and expand access to reproductive care in Minnesota after the Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade.

Morrison added that if elected, she would “feel a real obligation to work toward an effort to overturn Roe vs. Wade so that American women have access and protection.”

Current OBGYN members of Congress support the abortion ban

Both women, if elected, would be the only gynecological doctors with abortion rights in Congress.

Currently, Rep. Michael Burgess, R-Texas, and Sen. Roger Marshall, R-Kansas, are the only gynecologists in Congress and both are fiercely anti-abortion.

On his congressional website, Burgess says, “I do not support the use of abortion,” and details the work he has done to ban abortions from being performed at three Texas medical facilities.

His office did not respond to clarifying questions about whether Burgess believes there should be exceptions to the abortion ban for rape, incest and the life of the mother.

Rep. Michael Burgess, R-Texas, at the Capitol on June 11, 2024. (J. Scott Applewhite/AP)Rep. Michael Burgess, R-Texas, at the Capitol on June 11, 2024. (J. Scott Applewhite/AP)

Rep. Michael Burgess, R-Texas, at the Capitol on June 11, 2024. (J. Scott Applewhite/AP)

In 2022, shortly after the Supreme Court ruling, Marshall supported exceptions to abortion for the life of the mother, promising at a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing that “women with miscarriages and ectopic pregnancies will be treated in every state without exception. continue to be revered.”

Yet both Marshall and Burgess have supported false or misleading claims about abortion.

Burgess has falsely claimed that abortion “can pose a major risk to patient safety.” Data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention shows that from 2013 to 2020, there were 0.45 deaths per 100,000 abortions performed. By comparison, in 2020 there were 23.8 deaths for every 100,000 live births.

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Marshall has also supported the Pain Capable Unborn Child Protection Act, which would have banned abortion after twenty weeks and claimed that fetuses have the ability to respond “to stimuli that would be recognized as painful if applied to an adult human, e.g. by shrinking back.”

Senator Roger Marshall speaks (file Kevin Dietsch/Getty Images)Senator Roger Marshall speaks (file Kevin Dietsch/Getty Images)

Senator Roger Marshall speaks (file Kevin Dietsch/Getty Images)

The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists has disputed this claim, saying that “science conclusively establishes that a human fetus cannot experience pain until at least 24 to 25 weeks.”

The path to the house

Although Lyerly has been active in left-wing politics in Wisconsin for years, including advocating for new legislative plans for the state, she first made headlines in 2022 for joining a lawsuit along with two other doctors that attempted to to overturn the 1849 abortion ban, which resurfaced after the Supreme Court took power. The court overturned Roe v. Wade two years ago.

A district judge later ruled that the 1849 law did not ban abortions. This ruling has been appealed by a Republican district attorney at the county level and a resolution has yet to be found, although abortion is currently still legal in the state.

In 2020, Lyerly also ran for a state legislative seat, although she lost that race by more than 4 percentage points.

Lyerly blamed her loss in that race on “grossly gerrymandered” legislative plans that the Supreme Court rejected last year. Although Republicans in the state House and Democratic Gov. Tony Evers have drafted and approved a new legislative map, her campaign for Congress will also face an uphill climb.

Dr.  Kristin Lyerly, right, speaks during a 2022 White House Reproductive Rights Task Force meeting. (Susan Walsh / AP File)Dr.  Kristin Lyerly, right, speaks during a 2022 White House Reproductive Rights Task Force meeting. (Susan Walsh / AP File)

Dr. Kristin Lyerly, right, speaks during a 2022 White House Reproductive Rights Task Force meeting. (Susan Walsh / AP File)

Wisconsin’s Eighth District, located in the northeastern part of the state and including Green Bay, is Republican, according to the nonpartisan Cook Political Report with Amy Walter.

In 2022, former Republican Rep. Mike Gallagher, who left Congress last April, won the seat with more than 70 percent of the vote, though he came to power virtually unopposed and without a Democratic opponent. In 2020, Gallagher won with a Democratic opponent with 64 percent of the vote.

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Still, Lyerly said she hopes there are enough voters in the district who have voted Republican in the past but might be open to voting for a Democrat this time.

Former GOP Rep. Reid Ribble, who represented the district before Gallagher, said the district has an independent streak and that it would be “difficult but feasible” for a Democrat to win.

“A moderate, kind and thoughtful person can win, but he or she will have to raise a lot of money and then be authentic in the way he campaigns,” Ribble told NBC News via email. He said the abortion issue in particular could give Democrats a boost.

A poll from Marquette University Law School in Wisconsin in April found that a slim majority – 54% – of Wisconsin voters support a nationwide abortion ban after 15 weeks, with certain exceptions.

The same poll found that more than 60% of voters in the state opposed the Supreme Court’s decision to overturn Roe v. Wade.

Ribble added: “If they become motivated to vote, it could lead to a Democratic congressional candidate winning.”

Still, Republican strategists are confident they can keep this seat.

“I don’t think we see this as a competitive race,” a House GOP strategist told NBC News, adding that Lyerly’s campaign “sounds like a pipe dream.”

“With Trump on the ballot, turnout will be low [high]the strategist said, pointing to Trump’s previous strength in this area.

In nearby Minnesota, however, Morrison faces a clearer path to Congress. The nonpartisan Cook Political Report with Amy Walter rates the race in the state’s 3rd District as “solid Democrat.” In 2022, Phillips won reelection with nearly 60 percent of the vote.

And Minnesota voters largely support abortion access. Last year, 41% of adults across the state said they believed abortion should be legal in most cases, while 26% said they believed the procedure should be legal in all cases, according to a 2023 study by the Public Religion Research Institute.

“I’m not ‘Pollyannaish’ about the possibility of immediately changing everything in Congress. It’s obviously a pretty dysfunctional institution right now, but I really believe we need to keep sending people to Washington who believe in the promise of our country. and they want government to work,” Morrison said.

This article was originally published on NBCNews.com

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