It Behooves You to Understand Why People Are Getting Sick’: A Q&A About Police Violence and Reproductive Health

March 21, 2017

When there is a police shooting, somewhere a doctor or medical staff are involved. They treat the living wounded, and as coroners, they read the bodies of the dead and produce autopsies that will be scrutinized by the public, the media, and the criminal justice system.

Those documents underline that the provision of medical care is political. Physicians do not shed their biases and beliefs when they don white coats. Individual doctors and medical associations have been agents of social change and, in other cases, have fought hard to maintain the status quo or their own privilege; doctors campaigned to make abortion illegal in the late 19th century (largely in an effort to stigmatize midwifery, monopolize medical care, and control women’s bodies) while pre-Roe v. Wade “doctors of conscience” campaigned just as fervently to make it legal or available and safe despite the law. The American Medical Association long resisted granting physicians of color the rights to practice in majority-white hospitals, but physicians such as the late Dr. Paul Cornely also pushed integration of hospital staffs, articulated a vision of health as a human right, and documented health disparities.


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