Primary care physician groups oppose new state abortion restrictions

May 21, 2019

Groups representing primary care physicians said new state laws restricting abortion impede the physician-patient relationship and may jeopardize patient care.

Groups representing primary care physicians waded into the conflict over abortion, putting out a statement opposing a recent push in conservative states to restrict access and, in some cases, criminalize physicians who perform abortion services.

The physician groups-the American College of Physicians (ACP), the American Academy of Family Physicians, the American Osteopathic Association, The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, the American Academy of Pediatrics and the American Psychiatric Association-did not include the word "abortion" in their statement but made it clear the recent push to restrict access to abortion services was the reason for the statement.

“Our organizations are firmly opposed to efforts in state legislatures across the United States that inappropriately interfere with the patient-physician relationship, unnecessarily regulate the evidence-based practice of medicine and, in some cases, even criminalize physicians who deliver safe, legal, and necessary medical care,” the statement reads.

“We care for patients in communities across America over the course of their lives, including when they need to make critical decisions about their futures and families,” the statement continues. “The insertion of politics between patients and their physicians undermines the foundation of trust this relationship is built on and inhibits the delivery of safe, timely, and comprehensive care.

The physician groups are reacting to the recent passage of anti-abortion laws in five states-Alabama, Georgia, Ohio, Kentucky, and Mississippi. The Alabama law is the most restrictive, essentially making abortion illegal in almost every case. Physicians in Alabama who perform abortions could face prison time. The other state laws ban abortions after about six weeks, when a fetal heartbeat could be detected.

Many political observers believe the backers of these laws hope they are challenged in courts, eventually leading to a scenario where the U.S. Supreme Court rules on them, with abortion opponents hoping the conservative majority would overturn Roe vs. Wade and make abortion illegal nationwide.

The ACP also put out its own statement, which said they would continue to fight for healthcare rights for women.

Robert McLean, MD, president of ACP, said that the laws interfere with the physician-patient relationship and infringe on patient autonomy.

“While ACP recognizes and is respectful of different views that individuals, including physicians and patients, have on these issues, ACP believes that a woman has the right to make health care decisions about matters that affect her personal, individual health,” McLean said in the statement. “ACP also supports the current legal framework and a woman’s constitutional right to privacy in medical decision-making as upheld by the Supreme Court. However, ACP fears that the recent pieces of legislation introduced may interfere with these important tenets of health care.”