Planned Parenthood physician finds satisfaction ‘changing lives, saving lives’

Planned Parenthood rally
Planned Parenthood “changes lives, saves lives,” says Raegan McDonald-Mosley, M.D. (Fibonacci Blue/CC BY 2.0)

A trip to Tanzania in her senior year in college, set the direction for Raegan McDonald-Mosley, M.D.’s professional life. 

She worked at the Kilimanjaro Christian Medical Center in the sub-Saharan African country, where, for her senior honors thesis, she studied the causes of maternal mortality. Her research surprised her and workers in the community health department, finding that complications from unsafe abortions were the leading cause of maternal mortality.

The trip set her future course. She returned from the trip with a goal to “improve reproductive health outcomes for people in communities of need,” McDonald-Mosley said in an interview in JAMA.

She became a doctor and went on to serve as chief medical officer of the Planned Parenthood Federation of America from July 2015 to December 2017—a two-and-a-half-year period that was particularly tumultuous for the organization. She took on the job just days after an antiabortion group released a heavily edited video that suggested Planned Parenthood violated federal law by selling fetal tissue, the JAMA article noted.

What followed were state and U.S. House committee investigations that found no evidence of wrongdoing. There was also a call by a House panel to defund Planned Parenthood, and the organization and reproductive healthcare also came under attack from various sources, including the new Trump administration.

A desire to travel less, spend more time with her husband and two children and return to more direct patient care led McDonald-Mosley to leave the job at the national organization and return to her position as medical director of Planned Parenthood of Maryland. Her favorite time is every other Tuesday when she conducts the medical director consult clinic, a program she started back in 2013, at the Planned Parenthood health center in downtown Baltimore, she said.

“Because of my experiences in Tanzania and because of the patients I see on a weekly basis and their stories, I know that what we do is so important—it changes lives, it saves lives,” she said.

Even before he took office, Donald Trump’s election to the presidency sparked fears among many doctors and women about the future of abortion and reproductive rights. Women fearful that the Trump administration would limit reproductive rights gave immediate support to Planned Parenthood, which saw an increase in donations, emails and phone calls following the election.

While he has chipped away at it, Trump has not been able to carry out his promise to dismantle the Affordable Care Act, which gives women access to 18 FDA-approved types of birth control at no out-of-pocket costs.

The administration in January created a new “conscience and religious freedom” division within HHS’ Office for Civil Rights to protect doctors and other healthcare workers who have moral or religious objections to providing a medical service, such as abortion, or treating transgender patients. Opponents reacted swiftly, saying the move promotes discrimination against women and LGBTQ patients.