>Two writers from the Heritage Foundation have published an editorial on the Fox News Site that discusses the risks of the new ethics statement of the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG). Daniel Patrick Moloney and Peter Reed appreciate that limiting obstetrics and gynecology only to those doctors who will do abortions or arrange in advance to refer patients to doctors who will abort, limits women who themselves believe that their children’s lives begin at conception and who do not want anything to do with abortionists.
Should pro-life doctors and pharmacists be free to practice their profession according to the dictates of their consciences? Should a woman have the freedom to choose an obstetrician or gynecologist she trusts to provide care consistent with her beliefs?
Current federal law says yes. But many women may have that choice greatly restricted, and their doctors driven out of business, if a medical association is able to require that all doctors either perform abortions or make referrals for abortions.
In November 2007, the American College of Obstetrics and Gynecology (ACOG) announced that the ethical standards of the profession had changed. Its ethics committee stated that an ob/gyn who is unwilling to perform an abortion has an ethical duty to refer the patient to someone who will perform it. If the physician is unable to refer the patient in a timely manner, he would be required to perform the abortion himself.
This decision threatens the livelihood of pro-life doctors. Every ob/gyn who works in a hospital or clinic needs not only a license, but also certification that his skills are up to date and that he is aware of recent developments in the field. To be certified, he must follow the ethical standards of the profession, so under the new ethics policy a pro-life doctor risks losing his certification if his pro-life convictions don’t allow him to perform or cooperate in an abortion. And if he loses his certification, a hospital or clinic won’t let him deliver babies there.
The American Association of Pro-Life Obstetricians and Gynecologists has labeled the decision “a raw power play to cripple, and ultimately eliminate from practice, those doctors who hold a conscience conviction on the sanctity of human life.” Besides forcing current ob/gyns out of the profession, the policy would make any bright young pro-life student think twice about going to medical school for obstetrics or gynecology.
Besides limiting a woman’s choice to have a doctor who shares her pro-life views, restricting all prolife doctors from obstetrics will adversely affect her access to health care in general. Few doctors are doing OB, now. The number can only decrease if the traditional, conservative, prolife man or woman is threatened by ACOG’s insistence that conscience is merely a personal feeling and that we doctors can only practice if we promise to go out of our way to violate that conscience.
These ethical statements affect all doctors who care for women and girls through their reproductive ages. In fact, Family Physicians who deliver babies are also held to the same ACOG standards that the OB/Gyns must meet. (If anything, we had better be more careful, since any breech of protocol or “standard of care” may be thought of as due to our training.)
In many rural and underserved areas, the only docs around are the Family Physicians, who care for babies, kids, the elderly, and expectant mothers. In fact, I was the first FP in my small town ( just 20 miles from San Antonio but considered “medically underserved” as it had a large number of Medicaid, Medicare and indigent patients) who did not do “surgical OB,” or do Cesarean sections and sterilizations. (I’m a wimp, not a cutter. Although I love to sew up and put back together, I even refuse to make the traditional, courtesy, “first cut” at appendectomies and other non-OB surgeries when the surgeon offers. I finally quit doing circumcisions on new born boys because it made me physically ill to cut perfectly healthy tissue.)
Okay, how far will you trust someone who trains herself to forget that she believes the Creator of the universe – the One who knows every thought and can send her to hell – hates what she’s doing? Or even without a religious underpinning, a doc who believes he is killing a person at abortion, but does it anyway?