June 28, 2016
2 min read

AMA, ACOG applaud Supreme Court decision on access to abortion care

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The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists and the AMA have issued statements in favor of the United States Supreme Court decision on Whole Woman's Health v. Hellerstedt which struck down Texas' abortion law HB2 by a vote of 5-3.

According to the opinion, after the law was enacted in 2013, the number of facilities providing abortions decreased by half and the number of women who lived 50 or more miles from a clinic more than doubled. The law contained two provisions that were challenged in the court.

“The ‘admitting-privileges requirement’ provides that a ‘physician performing or inducing an abortion ... must, on the date [of service], have active admitting privileges at a hospital ... located not further than 30 miles from the’ abortion facility,” the opinion stated. “The ‘surgical-center requirement’ requires an ‘abortion facility’ to meet the ‘minimum standards ... for ambulatory surgical centers’ under Texas law.”

The court found that the provisions did not offer "medical benefits sufficient to justify the burdens upon access that each imposes" and therefore, they were in violation of the Constitution. Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg wrote in her concurring opinion that the Texas law was not in the best interests of women and women's health.

"It is beyond rational belief that HB2 could genuinely protect the health of women, and certain that the law ‘would simply make it more difficult for them to obtain abortions,’" she stated. "When a State severely limits access to safe and legal procedures, women in desperate circumstances may resort to unlicensed rogue practitioners... at great risk to their health and safety... So long as this Court adheres to Roe v. Wade and Planned Parenthood of Southeastern Pa. v. Casey, Targeted Regulation of Abortion Providers laws like HB2 that ‘do little to nothing for health, but rather strew impediments to abortion,’ cannot survive judicial inspection."

Andrew W. Gurman , MD, president of AMA, announced the organization's support and called HB2 "unsupported and unnecessary government regulation of medicine that impedes, rather than serves, public health objectives."

"The AMA joined [ACOG], along with several other national specialty medical societies, in an amicus brief to the Supreme Court in support of protecting the patient-physician relationship from unjustifiable government intrusion that compromises access to safe clinical care," Gurman said. "The AMA opposes interference in the clinical examination room and calls on policymakers to leave determination of what constitutes medically necessary treatment where it belongs - in the hands of physicians and patients."

Thomas M. Gellhaus , MD, president of ACOG and ACOG District XI (Texas), issued his support of the decision on behalf of the organization, stating that the law "served only as a barrier to women's ability to access safe, legal abortion when needed."

Gellhaus acknowledged, however, that improving access to abortion is a work in progress and that ACOG looks "forward to continuing to fight for the well-bring of women across the country."

"In dozens of states, women are living under laws that impede access in a variety of ways, for example banning certain abortion procedures, setting gestational limits, mandating that medically inaccurate information be provided to patients, and more," he said. "None of these have a basis in medicine, and all of them represent political interference in the patient/physician relationship. We will continue to oppose these laws and to promote safe access to legal abortion for our patients." – by Chelsea Frajerman Pardes