NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WKRN) — When News 2 talked to Rep. Susan Lynn (R-Mt. Juliet), one of the original prime sponsors of the current abortion law, she said she hopes doctors and politics won’t mix.

“We need to get medicine back to being about a patient and their doctor and the Hippocratic Oath that the doctor has taken, and get the politics out of this,” she said. “Really, I hope doctors will be brave and just tell the political arm to stop.”

“From what I can gather here, you’re saying doctors should probably stay out of politics at some level,” State Capitol Reporter Chris O’Brien clarified.

“Politics should not be involved in medicine,” Lynn said. “It is about the doctor-patient relationship and the Hippocratic Oath to first do no harm.”

We showed that exchange to a high-risk OB-GYN in Nashville.

“I completely, completely agree. Get the politics out of it,” Dr. Sarah Osmundson said. “Why not, then, get rid of the affirmative defense? Why have an affirmative defense?”

Abortion providers are in a tough spot – they’re sworn to a Hippocratic Oath but they also don’t want to get arrested.

“Do we feel comfortable enough taking on that risk to perform an abortion or do we need to send the patient elsewhere?” Dr. Osmundson said. “Unfortunately, we have scenarios where people are being sent out of state.”

In fact, less than a month ago, a doctor in Chattanooga sent a patient on a six-hour ambulance ride to North Carolina in what she saw as a life-saving move.

“We’ve gone from being physicians to ‘coordinators of care,’” OB-GYN Dr. Nikki Zite said.

Tennessee’s abortion ban is total, aside from allowing the doctor to perform an abortion in life-threatening situations. However, the onus is on the doctor to prove it was absolutely necessary rather than the legal system proving it was unnecessary.

“The issue with the affirmative defense and the way it’s written from my perspective is that it is incredibly ambiguous and vague,” Knoxville criminal defense attorney Chloe Akers said. “The statute in itself criminalizes an entire medical procedure without exception.”

“Do the physicians have to decide how brave they are, and are they going to commit a felony?” Dr. Zite asked.

Both Dr. Zite and Dr. Osmundson say the impact is far-reaching and extends beyond just patients. They worry the state is becoming less attractive for younger medical professionals.

“For young physicians contemplating where to get their training or where to practice medicine, I imagine this is weighing on them,” Dr. Zite said.

Tennessee already has a medical desert problem. The March of Dimes reported in 2020 that nearly 36 percent of Tennessee counties are maternity care deserts.

“I think we’re going to see, potentially, more physician deserts than we already have,” Dr. Zite said.

She recently sat for an exam for complex family training this year.

“While I was taking the test, I thought, ‘I know the right answer, but that’s not even legal in my state,’ Dr. Zite said.

Medical providers will survive. Both Dr. Zite and Dr. Osmundson say they won’t stop practicing medicine.

But if it comes down to deciding whether or not to potentially commit a felony, it’s only natural to err on the side of caution, potentially at the expense of a mother.

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“It’s just a tragedy of our healthcare system,” Dr. Osmundson said. “The fact that in the United States we would have to consider sending patients out of state to receive care that both a patient and her physician feel is life-saving or life-preserving is just unbelievable that that could happen these days.”