Doctor believes pregnant teen is victim of politics

Dr. Joshua Richey

INDIANAPOLIS - A doctor is speaking out after his teenage patient got pregnant. He believes she is, in part, a victim of politics.

The back-to-school physicals are non-stop at Riviera Pediatrics in Pike Township. Most are routine. But it's the 16-year-old patient who came in last Friday that still bothers pediatrician Joshua Richey.

"We did a pregnancy test that came back positive," said Dr. Richey.

She did not want to appear on camera, but shared that for a year, she got birth control at Planned Parenthood. At refill time two months ago, she was denied "because of the new law they can't see Medicaid patients and she is a Medicaid patient," said Richey.

"If it resulted in even one unintended pregnancy and particularity someone who is a teenager, that is really not okay," said Betty Cockrum, Planned Parenthood of Indiana.

"My main frustration is that when this law was passed, this was predictable," said Richey.

"What we have learned if there are complications regarding contraception, and this is particularly true in younger women, it just may not happen," said Cockrum.

The court battle has led to confusion about access right now. The new state law is being challenged and a preliminary injunction is now in effect.

That means Planned Parenthood services statewide are available. If you were turned away in late June, that won't happen now.

"When you've got 70 percent of the Indiana high school seniors having been sexually active, the denial of that takes a toll on everybody," said Cockrum, referring to a Planned Parenthood study.

Doctors can help with teens, starting the education about safety and sexual activity. It's key to continue conversations at home.

"Even when your child doesn't seem to be listening, the child is listening," said Cockrum.

Richey, meantime, worries about his patient's future, which is forever changed.

"She's a very smart girl, college-bound type of person," he said. "Even the brightest teenagers make bad decisions sometimes."

Dr. Richey wrote a letter to the editor of the Indianapolis Star, and his comments prompted many people to respond. Read the response here.

"I'm as pro-life as anybody. I'm not here to be someone that's for abortion. I'm here to say that Planned Parenthood was doing good things for lots of women, and some of those are going by the wayside," said Richey.

Many people commenting on the story put the blame squarely on the shoulders of the teenager who got pregnant.

"There's no denying the responsibility is on her and her partner. I don't deny that. That's definitely true," said Richey.

But Richey believes there's a sociological level to the issue that goes beyond his patient's case.

"It's more of a macroscopic look at it. As a whole, putting up that barrier to some people. Some people are gonna fall through the cracks," he said.