Doctor Riley of Utah, the abortion murder charges against her, got dropped almost in a middle of the night scenario and were first reported in a local Maryland news site. The prosecution could not find any reputable expert witnesses to testify at their pro-life political election year witch trial.
I do not want to say anything further on that.
I was however touched by a blog of one of Dr. Riley’s transgender patients named “Dexter” whose words I cannot equal except in the joy that she is free to go on doing her much needed work.
My pharmacy is now charging around $85 for a generic (Watson) 10ml 200mg/ml testosterone cypionate. Up from $58. They said there’s a shortage or something…
Anyway, I felt pretty nervous about bringing this prescription in due to the sudden arrest of my doctor, Nicola Riley, on December 28th. I’ve wanted to blog about this for a while, but haven’t been able to until now. During my last appointment with her just a week before her arrest, she forewarned me, “I’m involved in a trial and I’m not sure how it is going to go. So, just in case, I’m writing your prescription out for as long as I can.” Now that she’d been arrested, I wasn’t sure if the pharmacy would accept the prescription or not. Fortunately, they did.
She had been arrested under Maryland’s 2005 fetal homicide law, in connection to a 2010 abortion she’d performed there while working under a doctor named Steven Brigham. She was deemed a “monster” by the local media and various online sources. However, a few weeks later a more sympathetic article came out about her in the Salt Lake Tribune that included interviews with a couple of her transgender patients.
According to this article, she had accepted a job from Brigham. He would start abortions in New Jersey and Riley would finish them in Maryland where state law allowed later-term abortions (i.e. after 25 weeks). After working there for two weeks, one of her patients experienced a problem during the procedure. Riley immediately rushed her to the ER, where it turned out that the patient’s uterus had been punctured. This is a known risk of abortion and was Riley’s first complication in five years of performing abortions. She lost her license in Maryland, due to “endangering” this patient and for working with an unlicensed doctor for two weeks. The anti-abortion group Operation Rescue was, of course, involved in that investigation and deemed her license loss “a victory for the pro-life movement”.
The same group had spearheaded the witch hunt in Utah, where Dr. Riley was one of three doctors who would perform abortions in the entire state. I remember about a year ago when a local Fox news report ran with the headline, Do you know who your doctor really is?. It was, of course, all ominous and about Nicola Riley.
It’s been a huge knot in my stomach since this has all happened. To see my genuinely passionate doctor raked through the mud who has dedicated her life to providing services to women in need and marginalized communities. Especially when, like many other doctors, she could have easily chosen to turn her back due to the risks. My friend, Dominique Storni, summed it up well when she said of Dr. Riley:
“She is a woman who cares about humanity. The bulk of her practice was helping marginalized populations — people with no jobs, lower income, racial minorities, gender minorities,”
Practically every trans person I know has been a patient of Dr. Riley’s at some point. I can’t say this for any other physician - especially when every doctor I’d gone to before her had been ludicrously trans-ignorant. Something that’s not a problem for most cisgender women, a pap smear, is traumatic for me as a trans person. I had avoided ever getting one. When physicians tried, they would become confused and frustrated. Eventually, they would get angry at me and just give up. Some went as far as to tell me that I didn’t need pap smears - ever, just to save themselves the trouble of dealing with me.
When I saw Dr.Riley, I did my best to avoid anything to do with a pap smear. She was not fooled. She knew what was going on and deftly countered all of my diversions and excuses. She cornered me into getting a pap smear right there and then. Knowing how traumatic this was for me, she took extraordinary measures to make it as comfortable and non-traumatic as possible. What is normally a quick procedure took her three hours. While I’m not going to assume that she hasn’t made any mistakes just because my experience with her has been so positive, I am certainly not going to accept every allegation as fact.
I’ve been stunned by how the pro-life propaganda against her has been uncritically regurgitated by the media and by many people who should know better. Even some pro-choice people are soaking this up like a sponge. A procedure went wrong. This happens all of the time in hospitals. When a patient checks in for a surgical procedure they’re required to fill out a number of forms acknowledging the risk involved (e.g. injury or death). Every surgeon in every hospital is not a murderer because they require patients to sign these forms. They know procedures can and do go wrong.
What would have happened if there had been complications with my top surgery? I was warned in advance that there was a real risk of complication - even the possibility of death. My top surgery took place in a clinic. If something had gone wrong, the plan was to take me to the E.R., unconscious. This is exactly what happened in the case of Dr. Riley. Does this imply that all surgeries done in clinics, outside of a hospital, are shady, back alley operations? And that every doctor who performs surgery in clinics outside of a hospital must have their license to practice revoked? Of course not.
I feel so sad for her. Because she goes out on a limb for those who need her the most, she’s being witch hunted and even some people she has helped are going right along with it. Death threats, harassed, chased out, and now - being tried as a murderer under an entirely bogus and very strategic anti-choice “fetal death” law. At the very least, she deserves the presumption of innocence. We have an obligation to stand up for her and look at these allegations with responsible skepticism. Think hard about whether the allegations make sense or not, whether there are possible explanations - or if they might be entirely false.