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Abortion, Conscience, News

Members of Congress Express Grave Concern over ACOG Policy Threatening Freedom of Conscience

Congress of the United States
Washington, DC 20515

March 14, 2008

Kenneth L. Noller, MD, MS, President
The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecology
409 12th Street, SW
Washington, DC 20090-6920

Dear Dr. Noller,

We are deeply concerned to learn of The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecology (ACOG) Committee Opinion #385 which could destroy the rights of conscience for pro-life obstetricians and gynecologists across our nation. Conforming to this guideline would force pro-life OB-GYNs to violate their moral and ethical beliefs regarding controversial issues like abortion. Furthermore, when paired with newly revised certification policies of the American Board of Obstetrics and Gynecology that condition board certification on compliance with ACOG ethics guidelines, we are concerned that the views represented in Opinion #385 can be used to force valuable pro- life OB-GYNs out of the practice of medicine for exercising their rights of conscience. If used as a basis for decertifying physicians, these physicians would most likely lose hospital privileges and effectively be put out of business, denying the physician’s right to practice his or her profession. Moreover, pro-life women would lose the right to choose OB-GYNs who share their moral convictions.

As you know, Opinion #385 entitled “The Limits of Conscientious Refusal in Reproductive Medicine,” contains seven recommendations that we believe jeopardize the rights of conscience of OB/GYNs. This report calls on OB-GYNs to disregard their moral, ethical or religious objections to abortion and instructs them to perform or refer for abortion. Opinion #385 also obligates the protection of the liberty interests of the pregnant women over the life and health of the unborn child, regardless of what the provider believes is in the best interests of both patients. This is a worrisome departure from professional standards set by state legislatures and other professional medical organizations such as the American Medical Association (AMA). The AMA House of Delegates policy on abortion states: “Neither physician, hospital, nor hospital personnel shall be required to perform any act violative of personally held moral principles.” Currently, nearly all states recognize the right of physicians to refuse to provide abortions.

We are aware that member physicians and civil rights organizations have requested for clarification on Opinion #385. We, as Members of the House of Representative are asking the same and want assurance that OB-GYNs will not face severe consequences, including decertification, for refusing to perform or refer for an abortion on grounds of conscience. In light of these concerns, we request a clear explanation of whether Opinion #385 represents the official position of ACOG and what outcomes were intended by those who crafted Opinion #385. Furthermore, as the largest American association of OBGYNs, we ask that you provide further clarification by explaining the general intent, import and force of ACOG Ethics Opinions applied under ABOG 2008 MOC Bulletin. Finally, please clarify the impact of ACOG Ethics Committee reports on board certification and ACOC membership. We request the courtesy of your response to these concerns by March 29th, 2008.

Sincerely,

Phil Gingrey, M.D. (GA-11)

Trent Franks (AZ-2)

Dave Weldon, M.D. (FL-15)

Ron Paul, M.D. (TX-14)

Paul Broun, M.D. (GA-10)

Tom Price, M.D. (GA-6)

James L. Oberstar (MN-8)

Joseph R. Pitts (PA-16)

Christopher H. Smith (NJ-4)

W. Todd Akin (MO-2)

Mike Ferguson (NJ-7)

Scott Garrett (NJ-5)

J. Gresham Barrett (SC-3)

Barbara Cubin (WY)

Jeff Fortenberry (NE-1)

Jean Schmidt (OH-2)

Cc: Anne D. Lyerly, MD, Chair of Ethics Committee
The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecology

Lucia DiVenere, Director of the Department of Government Affairs
American College of Obstetricians and Gynecology