As end of Roe looms, US doctors say ‘abortion is essential healthcare’.

By Julia Conley, Common Dreams

The leading professional association of obstetricians and gynecologists on Monday responded to “the anticipated upending of 50 years of well-settled law” regarding abortion care by the U.S. Supreme Court by strengthening its policy on the issue and condemning right-wing legislators who spread misinformation about abortion as they roll back reproductive rights.

The board of directors of the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG) updated its policy on abortion by making clear that the procedure “is an essential component of comprehensive, evidence-based healthcare” and the group “strongly opposes any effort that impedes access to abortion care and interferes in the relationship between a person and their healthcare professional.”

“Abortion is a critical medical intervention that can save and improve the lives of our patients,” said Dr. Iffath Abbasi Hoskins, president of ACOG and chair of the board of directors. “Although ACOG’s long-standing abortion policy supported safe, legal, evidence-based abortion care, the current reproductive health crisis calls for revisions which make it unmistakably clear that ACOG trusts doctors and patients—and not lawmakers—to make decisions about what is best for patients’ health and well-being.”

The policy was updated as reproductive rights advocates are bracing for an expected ruling by the Supreme Court overturning Roe v. Wade, the landmark 1973 decision which affirmed that women in the U.S. have the constitutional right to obtain abortion care.

A draft opinion leaked earlier this month showed that the court’s right-wing majority had already voted earlier this month to overturn the ruling.

Abortion protests with various pro-choice slogans on display

Twenty-six states are expected to immediately ban abortion if Roe is overturned, and right-wing lawmakers in 42 states have introduced 546 pieces of legislation so far this year which would ban or restrict people’s right to obtain abortion care.

Following the leak of the draft decision, ACOG announced it was canceling plans to hold its 2023 annual meeting in New Orleans due to Louisiana’s “trigger law,” which would outlaw abortion if Roe is overturned.

“Holding the nation’s largest gathering of obstetrician-gynecologists in a location where the provision of evidence-based care is banned or subject to criminal or other penalties is directly at odds with our mission and values,” said the group last week.

ACOG also condemned Oklahoma’s recently passed law which prohibits abortions starting at fertilization, calling it an “egregious assault on patients and clinicians.”

The group recently introduced an advocacy resource called “Abortion Is Essential Healthcare” for doctors to help “defend and expand access to abortion at all levels.”

“It is our responsibility, as the nation’s largest organization representing physicians who are dedicated to the health of women and patients in need of reproductive medical care, to speak clearly and definitively in support of essential abortion care and those who provide and receive it,” said Hoskins.

Along with its updated policy, ACOG on Monday published an article explaining its decision to unequivocally fight right-wing attacks on abortion rights, noting that lawmakers and commentators who support forced pregnancy have “misrepresented and unscientifically redefined” medical terms like “viability” in an effort to strictly limit when a patient can obtain an abortion.

“The word viability is used in the political arena and defined in proposed legislation without regard to medical evidence or the facts of a particular case,” said the group. “Questions about whether and when to access abortion care should be removed from the political context and returned to the patient and their trusted healthcare professional.”

Right-wing politicians in Texas have banned abortion at six weeks of pregnancy—before many women realize they are pregnant—and several other states have proposed similar bans, with proponents falsely stating that a “fetal heartbeat” can be detected at that time.

Forced pregnancy advocates have also taken aim at abortions that occur later in pregnancy, attacking people who obtain or provide “abortion up until the point of birth.”

“Statements about ‘abortion up until the point of birth’ or ‘elective abortion’ are unscientific and crafted to polarize the conversation about abortion,” said ACOG. “Abortion later in pregnancy is very safe and typically occurs as a result of complications in the life or pregnancy of a pregnant person.”

“We don’t believe that elected politicians… can or should be in the exam room weighing those factors or in a position of substituted judgment for our members and their patients,” the group added.