The political attacks waged on women’s health throughout our country have gotten out of hand – decisions made by elected officials are effectively tying the hands of doctors, endangering the lives and well-being of women.

Indeed, a new report from an independent reproductive health research organization, the Guttmacher Institute, found that states have adopted 231 new restrictions on women’s access to care since the 2010 midterm elections swept abortion opponents into office.

Many of the restrictions introduced are purported to protect women, but instead they place women at increased risk. As lawmakers consider policies that affect women’s health, it is critical to listen to our health care providers across the state and nation who know that legal abortion is extraordinarily safe – and will remain that way only if it remains legal and accessible.

We must replace misinformation with facts and start having honest conversations about abortion in America today. These may not always be comfortable discussions, but they must be civil, and they must recognize the need for every woman to have control over her body and over her future.

As a family physician who provides a great deal of health care to women of all ages, I work every day to keep women healthy. Studies show that three in 10 women in the United States has had or will have an abortion, and that abortion is one of the safest medical procedures performed in the United States.

Statistics, including data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, show that abortion has a safety record of over 99 percent, which is far greater than even childbirth itself.

Women in the U.S. experience major complications from abortion less than 1 percent of the time, and in those rare cases when complications do occur, they are similar to those that may occur from miscarriage, which are successfully treated every day.

Having worked with Planned Parenthood of Northern New England, a leading women’s health care provider in Maine, I have witnessed firsthand the high-quality reproductive health care women receive in a safe and respectful environment.

This care includes making abortion available for women if and when they decide that is what they need, and doing so in line with leading evidence-based safety guidelines from the CDC and the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists.

A woman who decides on abortion receives extensive support throughout the process from a team of highly trained medical professionals. Before the procedure, she completes a medical history and has blood testing. She learns how the process works, the range of normal symptoms to expect and the warning signs to look for.

I don’t have the experience of those who practiced before Roe v. Wade. I have been lucky to never have had to care for women suffering from the complications that come from illegal abortion.

But in my own medical practice, I have cared for women who feared for their safety if their family found out they were pregnant. I have cared for women who were in their late 40s and who were concerned that a pregnancy would seriously threaten their own lives.

I have cared for women who needed to stay in school to finish their degree so they could have a successful career and start a family on their terms. I have cared for young women who were raped, and for women of all ages who were the victims of domestic violence and did not feel that they were in a position to safely raise a child.

Each and every one of these women was empowered and strengthened by having the ability to make her own medical decisions.

I see women every day with many different reproductive health care needs, and each carries with her a story and her own set of challenges, but one thing is constant: Every single woman needs the right to decide for herself, in consultation with her medical provider, her family and her faith, whether or not to carry a pregnancy to term.

When these decisions are taken away from her, when her independence and self-determination are stripped from her, she is left unable to get the health care she requires to remain healthy and to protect her future and her family.

This is in fundamental opposition to what it means to be American, and only by fighting for women to have legal access to safe abortions can we realize a truly equal and successful society.