Abortion: US doctor named in case unrelated to lawsuit

JACKSON, ma’am. –

Dr. Thomas Dobbs has never been involved in political struggles over reproductive health, but his name has become shorthand for a legal case that could end abortion rights in the United States. If he has feelings about the situation, he will keep those things to himself.

Mississippi’s top public health official named in Dobbs Women’s Health Foundation sues Jackson, disputes state law that bans most abortions after 15 weeks but that could be used to flip pour Roe v. Wade.

A leaked draft of the US Supreme Court’s comments shows a conservative majority of judges are ready to use the case to overturn the landmark 1973 court ruling that established nationwide abortion rights.

Dobbs, 52, is a physician in charge of the state Department of Health, which operates Mississippi’s only abortion clinic. As the state’s chief medical officer, he is the one to be named in any lawsuits related to abortion or other health issues, he explained recently in a Twitter post.

So while the name at the heart of the abortion debate might eventually change from “Roe” to “Dobbs,” the paramedic is not a healthcare worker but the attorney general’s office. state is handling the state case.

“I am not directly involved in any component of this legal action,” he wrote in the post.

Liz Sharlot, communications director for the state health department, confirmed Dobbs’ nominal role and declined the AP’s request for an interview because, according to her, he “did not initiate this case personally. “

“The only role of the Mississippi Department of Health in relation to abortion facilities is that of regulations supporting the legislation, inspection, and licensing of such facilities,” Sharlot wrote in an email.

Dobbs is a former state epidemiologist who became head of the health department in 2018, months after the Republican-controlled Mississippi Legislature passed legislation restricting now-current abortions. is at the heart of the case.

He has spent his public health career focusing not on abortion, but on promoting better outcomes in a situation plagued by high infant mortality rates and poor health outcomes. other poor health statistics.

The legal battle over abortion began when Mississippi’s only abortion clinic sued over the 15-week ban. The suit was originally called the Jackson Women’s Health Foundation v. Currier et al. The main defendant was the state’s medical officer at the time, Dr. Mary Currier. After she left, a judge removed Currier’s name from the case and replaced it with Dobbs.

A federal district judge blocked the law from taking effect. When the state appealed to the Supreme Court, the name of the case was overturned, to Dobbs versus clinic.

During an online briefing hosted by the Mississippi State Medical Association in June 2021, Dobbs was asked about his name during the abortion. He was quick to note that Dr. Kenneth Cleveland was also named in the lawsuit as head of the Mississippi State Medical Licensing Commission.

The president of the medical association at the time, Dr Mark Horne, said in a humorous quote about Dobbs.

“I’m trying to get him to swap with me,” Dobbs quipped.

By far the name most associated with the abortion debate is Jane Roe, the pen name of a Dallas woman named Norma McCorvey, the plaintiff in the famous Roe v. Wade. Wade was Henry Wade, the Dallas district attorney at the time.

In 1969, 22-year-old McCorvey became pregnant for the third time and wanted an abortion. McCorvey and her lawyers eventually won the legal battle, but it wasn’t until she gave birth and put the girl up for adoption. She later became an anti-abortion activist. McCorvey was 69 years old when she died in 2017.

Another name that often pops up in the debate is Robert P. Casey, a former Democratic governor of Pennsylvania who was an anti-abortion advocate. In 1989, he worked with the state legislature to enact a law that placed some limits on abortion. Planned Parenthood of Southeast Pennsylvania challenged the law. In 1992, the Supreme Court upheld most of the restrictions, but also affirmed women’s right to abortion. Casey died in 2000. The name of the case is Planned Parenthood v. Casey.

While Dobbs is not involved in the abortion debate, he has spent the past two years immersed in another controversial health issue: the COVID-19 pandemic. At dozens of press conferences and public appearances, he has urged people to get vaccinated, wear masks and maintain social distancing. He persisted even when many people, including some civil servants, resisted.

In August, Dobbs said he received threats from people who believed in false conspiracy theories about him and his family when he advertised vaccinations against COVID-19. Dobbs lied that his son, who is also a doctor, received a World Bank-funded refund when Dobbs urged people to get vaccinated.

“I don’t get any dollars from vaccinations,” Dobbs wrote on Twitter.

Prior to the COVID-19 vaccine, often-tempered Dobbs expressed frustration at people’s insistence on participating in school social events and extracurricular activities, including Sport competition.

“Our hierarchy of priorities is insanely stupid,” Dobbs said in November 2020. “We’re prioritizing youth sports, not just over academia. We really prioritize it over public health, to be honest. “

In the midst of an intense battle with the pandemic, Dobbs said he turns to exercise and listening to music – jazz and The Rolling Stones – as ways to disconnect from work. He announced in March that he would retire at the end of July.

Dr. Georges Benjamin is executive director of the American Public Health Association, one of several public health and research groups that have submitted legal briefs critical of Mississippi’s 15-week abortion ban. .

Benjamin said he was not aware of Dobbs’ personal views on abortion and the legal issues involved in the case, and expressed doubt that Dobbs would make them public.

“Your name may be associated with a legal case when you do these jobs,” says Benjamin. “But your name linked may not be in line with your own views. You’re a public servant and unfortunately that’s what happens when you take these jobs.”

Benjamin said Dobbs did an “incredible” job as Mississippi’s paramedic during the pandemic, including notable work addressing issues of inequality. He called him a “reliable character who follows scientific principles.”

Benjamin’s hope, he said, is that Dobbs’ reputation “was not tarnished” by his name on the abortion.


AP Medical’s Mike Stobbe reports from New York.

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