National OBGYN Group Backtracks on Abortion Policy, Pro-Life Docs Unsatisfied

National   |   Steven Ertelt   |   Apr 7, 2008   |   9:00AM   |   WASHINGTON, DC

National OBGYN Group Backtracks on Abortion Policy, Pro-Life Docs Unsatisfied Email this article
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by Steven Ertelt Editor
April 7
, 2008

Washington, DC ( — A national OBGYN group appears to have relented somewhat in the face of pressure from pro-life doctors and the Bush administration. The board of the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists has been considering using the promotion of abortion as a requirement for certifying doctors.

ACOG had crafted a new policy saying that all doctors, including those who are pro-life, should refer women to abortion centers.

Its new "The Limits of Conscientious Refusal in Reproductive Medicine" document insisted that doctors who object to doing abortions should refer patients to physicians who will do them.

Leading groups for pro-life doctors objected to the new policy, but were also significantly concerned that the American Board of Obstetrics and Gynecology would use it to require the abortion promotion for certification. That could have led to pro-life obstetricians having to quit their practices rather than be forced to do abortions or refer for them.

The concern was so severe that Health and Human Services Secretary Mike Leavitt issued a letter to ACOG calling on the college’s board to reject the policy and protect the conscience rights of physicians.

Now, according to a report in the AMA News, ACOG is re-evaluating its position.

ABOG Executive Director Norman F. Gant, MD told the AMA’s news publication that abortion is not an issue for consideration in any of its requirements or exams. Gant added he thought Leavitt’s interpretation of the new policy and its effects was off-base.

ACOG also published a statement saying it would reassess the policy in light of “the uncertain and mixed interpretation.”

Following the statements from the ACOG and Board leaders, an HHS spokesman said Leavitt told AMA News the Bush administration official is now "satisfied that the conscience rights of OBGYN doctors will not be undermined by the board-certification process."

However, Dr. Joe DeCook, the vice-president of the American Assn. of Pro-Life Obstetricians and Gynecologists, says the reassurances from ACOG and its board are not enough to alleviate his concerns.

"The policy as it’s stated leaves significant potential for decertification and discrimination," he told AMA News.

"That may not be the intent, but the effect of the language is there, and we need some provision in the language that makes plain that this is not referable to our conscience convictions," he added.

Gene Rudd, MD, vice president of the Christian Medical & Dental Assns, and another leading pro-life physician, agreed and said anything less than a retraction isn’t good enough.

"There is no way they can satisfy many people, including myself, if they want to compromise conscience," he said.