There are no pro-choice OBGYNs in Congress. These candidates are hoping to change that.

As Congress grapples over abortion rights two years after the Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade, two physicians specializing in obstetrics and gynecology are hoping to bring their expertise and exam room experiences to Capitol Hill.

Dr. Kristin Lyerly and Dr. Kelly Morrison are running for Congress for the chance to become the only pro-abortion rights OBGYNs on Capitol Hill.

The erosion of abortion rights since the 2022 Supreme Court decision is part of what drove Lyerly to run for the House in Wisconsin, she said in an interview.

“I get to hear the stories directly from my patients and their families. And I think once you — unless you are there in the room, you don’t truly understand the depth of how this affects people,” she said.

Dr. Kristin Lyerly acknowledges her supporters as she is introduced during her campaign announcement on April 4 in Green Bay, Wis.Tork Mason / Green Bay Press-Gazette / USA Today Network

Lyerly has been working as an OBGYN for over 15 years and has administered care in Wisconsin, where she is seeking a congressional seat in the state’s Eighth District and in neighboring Minnesota. She’s running unopposed in the state’s August 13 Democratic primary and in November would face one of at least 3 Republican candidates, including Tony Wied, who is backed by former President Donald Trump.

She said that, since the ruling, her practice in Minnesota hasn’t been affected by abortion bans, but “what I’m hearing from my colleagues in Wisconsin is entirely different.” She detailed several stories from colleagues who feared they could go to jail for counseling women about taking abortion-inducing medication like mifepristone.

There is, “a chilling that accompanies laws like this, it’s the confusion and the misinformation,” Lyerly said.

Morrison, who is running in Minnesota’s Third District and also currently serves in the state legislature, expressed similar sentiments. She is the sole candidate in the state’s Democratic primary, which is also on August 13. She is likely to face Tad Jude, a lawyer and former Minnesota state lawmaker, in November.

“OBGYNs and other care providers see firsthand what [abortion] bans and restrictions do to people’s health,” Morrison, who has been a practicing OBGYN for over 20 years, said, adding, “When I talk to my colleagues in states that have enacted these bans and restrictions, it’s really terrifying what’s happening in those areas.”

Minnesota State Sen. Kelly Morrison
Minnesota State Sen. Kelly Morrison, center, attends a “Women for Biden” event in Bloomington on April 19.Sam Woodward / USA Today Network

Those stories, she said, are what led her to work to protect and expand access to reproductive care in Minnesota after the Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade.

Morrison added that, if elected, she would “feel a real obligation to work on an effort to codify Roe vs. Wade so that American women have access and protection.”

Current OBGYN congressmen back abortion bans

Both women, if elected, would be the only pro-abortion rights OBGYN physicians in Congress.

Currently, Rep. Michael Burgess, R-Texas, and Sen. Roger Marshall, R-Kansas, are the only OBGYNs in Congress and both are vehemently anti-abortion.

On his congressional website, Burgess says, “I do not support the use of abortion,” and details the work he did to prohibit abortions from being performed at three medical facilities in Texas.

His office did not respond to clarifying questions about whether Burgess believes there should be exceptions to abortion bans for rape, incest and the life of the mother.

Rep. Michael Burgess, R-Texas, at the Capitol on June 11, 2024.
Rep. Michael Burgess, R-Texas, at the Capitol on Tuesday.J. Scott Applewhite / AP

In 2022, shortly after the Supreme Court’s ruling, Marshall backed abortion exceptions for the life of the mother, promising during a Senate committee hearing that, “women with miscarriages and ectopic pregnancies will be treated in every state without exception. Life of the mom will continue to be honored.”

Still, both Marshall and Burgess have backed false or misleading claims about abortion.

Burgess has falsely claimed that abortion “can pose a high risk to patient safety.” Data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention shows that, between 2013 and 2020, there were .45 deaths per every 100,000 abortions performed. In comparison, in 2020, there were 23.8 deaths for every 100,000 live births.

Marshall has also backed the Pain Capable Unborn Child Protection Act, which would have banned abortion after 20 weeks and claimed that fetuses have the capacity to react, “to stimuli that would be recognized as painful if applied to an adult human, for example, by recoiling.”

Sen. Roger Marshall speaks
Sen. Roger Marshall, R-Kan.Kevin Dietsch / Getty Images file

The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists has disputed this claim, saying that “science conclusively establishes that a human fetus does not have the capacity to experience pain until after at least 24–25 weeks.”

The path to the House

While Lyerly has been active in left-leaning politics in Wisconsin for years, including advocating for new state legislative maps, she first made headlines in 2022 for joining a lawsuit alongside two other physicians that sought to nullify an 1849 abortion ban that resurfaced once the Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade two years ago.

A county judge later ruled that the 1849 law did not ban abortions. That ruling was appealed by a county-level Republican district attorney and has yet to be resolved, though abortion currently remains legal in the state.

In 2020, Lyerly also ran for a state legislative seat, though she lost that race by more than 4 percentage points.

Lyerly blamed her loss in that race on legislative maps that were “grossly gerrymandered,” which the state Supreme Court struck down last year. Though Republicans in the statehouse and Democratic Gov. Tony Evers drew and passed a new legislative map, her campaign for Congress will also face an uphill climb.

Dr. Kristin Lyerly, right, speaks during a meeting of the reproductive rights task force at the White House in 2022.
Dr. Kristin Lyerly, right, speaks during a meeting of the reproductive rights task force at the White House in 2022. Susan Walsh / AP file

Wisconsin’s Eighth District, located in the northeast of the state and includes Green Bay, is solidly Republican, according to the non-partisan Cook Political Report with Amy Walter.

In 2022, former GOP Rep. Mike Gallagher, who left Congress this past April, won the seat with over 70 percent of the vote, though he ran virtually unopposed, with no Democratic opponent. In 2020, with a Democratic opponent, Gallagher won with 64 percent of the vote.

Still, Lyerly said she hopes there are enough voters in the district who may have voted for Republicans in the past but may be open to voting for a Democrat this time around.

Former GOP Rep. Reid Ribble, who represented the district before Gallagher, said the district has an independent streak, and said it would be “tough but doable” for a Democrat to win.

“A moderate, kind and thoughtful person can win but they will need to raise a lot of money and then actually be authentic in how they campaign,” Ribble told NBC News via email. He said the issue of abortion in particular could give Democrats a boost.

An April Marquette University Law School poll of Wisconsin found that a slight majority — 54% — of Wisconsin voters favor a nationwide abortion ban after 15 weeks, with certain exceptions.

The same poll found that over 60% of voters in the state opposed the Supreme Court’s decision to overturn Roe v. Wade.

Ribble added, “If they get motivated to vote it could lead to a Democrat congressional candidate winning.”

Still, Republican strategists are confident they can hold onto this seat.

“I don’t think we see this as a competitive race at all,” one House GOP strategist told NBC News, adding that Lyerly’s campaign, “sounds like a pipe dream.”

“With Trump being on the ballot, the base turnout is going to be [high],” the strategist said, pointing to Trump’s previous strength in the area.

In nearby Minnesota, though, Morrison faces a clearer path to Congress. The non-partisan Cook Political Report with Amy Walter rates the state’s Third District race as “Solid Democrat.” In 2022, Phillips won re-election with almost 60 percent of the vote.

And Minnesota voters are largely supportive of abortion access. Across the state last year, 41% of adults said they believe that abortion should be legal in most cases, while 26% said they believe the procedure should be legal in all cases, according to a 2023 survey by the Public Religion Research Institute.

“I’m not ‘Pollyannaish’ about being able to immediately change everything in Congress. It’s obviously a pretty dysfunctional institution right now, but I really believe we’ve got to continue to send people to Washington who believe in the promise of our country and who want government to work,” Morrison said.