Medical groups join to denounce legislative interference in health care, including abortion

Federal, state laws put physicians in “impossible situation,” but they aim to work with legislators on policies.

Physician groups generally praised President Joe Biden’s executive order protecting access to reproductive health care services, although the American College of Physicians (ACP) said it did not go far enough.

Meanwhile, more than 75 health care organizations have joined to denounce legislative interference in the patient-physician relationship now that the U.S. Supreme Court has overturned the 1973 landmark case Roe v. Wade. With regulation left to the states, analysts have warned the decision could lead to greater restrictions or outright bans in roughly half the country.

On July 8, Biden announced the federal Department of Health and Human Services will lead potential actions to protect and expand access to abortion care, including medication abortion, to protect consumers’ privacy and to combat misinformation.

The move prompted praise from ACP and the American Medical Association (AMA), who were among the organizations that banded together for a joint statement for evidence-based care that is right for patients, “without arbitrary limitations, without threats, and without harm.” The statement, published July 7 by the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, described the post-Roe era with abortion bans that will hurt patients and could put clinicians at risk of criminal prosecution or civil sanctions.

“Banning abortion care is a decision not founded in science or based on evidence. In all facets of medicine, clinicians train for years — some for decades — to learn how to provide the best evidence-based care possible to their patients,” the statement said. “Patients form trusting relationships with their health care professionals, but when health care professionals are prevented from providing the full spectrum of care by threat of legal action, the quality and scope of care they can provide is limited, endangering both patient care and the patient–clinician relationship.

“Just as patients should not be forced to leave their communities to access abortion care, clinicians should not be forced to uproot their lives and leave their homes in order to practice in safe, supportive environments,” the joint statement said. “Restricting access to care and eroding the trust between patients and health care professionals will worsen existing gaps in health disparities and outcomes, compounding the harm that under-resourced communities already experience.”

After the president’s announcement, ACP President Ryan D. Mire, MD, FACP, issued a news release stating the order did not go far enough.

“We hope that working together with other stakeholders, we can find a way to restore access to reproductive services, protect the patient-physician relationship, fight legislative interference in evidence-based health care, and fight against the criminalization of physicians and other health care professionals providing care for their patients,” Mire said. “We will continue to work with the administration, federal and state policymakers, and others to restore federal protections to all Americans.”

The post-Roe era puts physicians “in an impossible situation,” ethically caught between caring for patients and complying with vague, restrictive, complex and conflicting state laws, AMA President Jack Resneck Jr., MD, said in a statement.

“For physicians and patients alike, this is a frightening and fraught time, with new, unprecedented concerns about data privacy, access to contraception, and even when to begin lifesaving care,” Resneck said. “Our hope is that these first steps announced (July 8) are clarifying and effective as we continue the critical work necessary to ensuring access to comprehensive reproductive health care.”