Texas Department of Health appoints anti-abortion activist and gynecologist to committee on maternal mortality

AUSTIN, Texas (AP) — The Texas Department of Health has appointed an outspoken anti-abortion activist and gynecologist to a committee investigating pregnancy-related deaths after doctors previously warned that the state's restrictive abortion ban was putting women's lives at risk.

Dr. Ingrid Skop was among the new members of the Texas Maternal Morality and Morbidity Review Committee announced last week by the Texas Department of State Health Services. Her term begins June 1.

The committee, which collects data on pregnancy-related deaths, makes recommendations to Parliament on best practices and policy changes and is also expected to assess the impact of abortion laws on maternal mortality.

Skop, who has worked as a gynecologist for more than three decades, is vice president and director of medical affairs for the Charlotte Lozier Institute, an anti-abortion research group. Skop will be the rural representative of the committee.

Skop, who has spent most of her career in San Antonio, said the Houston Chronicle that she “frequently cared for women who had to travel long distances from rural Texas, including women suffering from complications after an abortion.”

Texas has one of the most restrictive abortion bans in the U.S., and doctors have sought clarity on the state's medical exemption, which allows an abortion to save a woman's life or prevent impairment of a vital bodily function. Doctors said the exemption is too vague, making it difficult to provide life-saving care for fear of repercussions. A doctor convicted of an illegal abortion in Texas faces up to 99 years in prison and a $100,000 fine, as well as losing his medical license.

Skop said medical associations are not giving doctors proper guidance on the issue. She has also expressed more controversial views, saying during a 2021 congressional hearing that rape or incest victims could carry pregnancies to term as early as 9 or 10 years old.

Texas' abortion ban provides no exception for cases of rape or incest.

The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, which says abortion is “inextricably linked to the health of the mother,” said in a statement that members of the Texas committee should be “unbiased, free of conflicts of interest, and focused on appropriate standards of care.” should. The organization noted that anti-abortion bias has already led to “compromised” analysis, pointing to a research article co-authored by Skop and others associated with the Charlotte Lozier Institute.

A medical journal earlier this year withdrawn studies supported by the Charlotte Lozier Institute, which claims to demonstrate harms of the abortion pill mifepristone, and cited conflicts of interest of the authors and flaws in their research. Two of the studies were cited in a decisive court ruling in Texas that jeopardized access to the drug.