Bush Admin Official Sends Another Letter to Group to Protect Pro-Life Doctors

National   |   Steven Ertelt   |   Jun 23, 2008   |   9:00AM   |   WASHINGTON, DC

Bush Admin Official Sends Another Letter to Group to Protect Pro-Life Doctors

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by Steven Ertelt
LifeNews.com Editor
June 23
, 2008

Washington, DC (LifeNews.com) — A top Bush administration official sent another letter to the American Board of Obstetricians and Gynecologists about their certification requirements regarding abortion. The OBGYN group appeared to relent after Health and Human Services Secretary Mike Leavitt issued his initial letter in March.

In his first letter, Leavitt said the Bush administration opposes a policy ABOG was considering that could have doing or promoting abortions as part of the formal requirement for physician board certification.

The requirement would rely on American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists guidelines saying physicians should refer women to another doctor when they refuse to do an abortion or refer to someone who does.

That could wind up making many pro-life obstetricians quit their jobs rather than be forced to do abortions.

After receiving the letter, ABOG Executive Director Norman F. Gant, MD said 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.

On Friday, Leavitt sent a follow-up letter to ABOG saying he was "pleased" that ABOG "will not rely on the ACOG report" regarding conscience.

Secretary Leavitt noted that ABOG’s Bulletin continues to reference ACOG’s ethics rules and suggested ABOG clarify in their Bulletin what Dr. Gant stated.

The followup letter received words of praise from Tony Perkins, the head of the Family Research Council.

"If ABOG is serious about not undermining physicians’ conscience, they should take Secretary Leavitt’s advice and uphold the rights of physicians to refuse to perform or refer for abortion," he said.

"Secretary Leavitt is right to defend physicians’ conscience," he said.

Leading pro-life groups have objected to the policy

Dr. Joe DeCook, the vice-president of the American Association 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.

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