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Health care groups rap high-court abortion ruling
June 27, 2022 |
The Supreme Court building in Washington, D.C.

AMA, mental health groups say loss of abortion as constitutional right will harm health, doctor-patient relationships

A variety of medical and health care groups criticized Friday’s Supreme Court ruling overturning the landmark 1973 Roe v. Wade decision that abortion is a constitutionally protected right. Some harshly condemned the 6-3 Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization decision and pledged to help secure abortion rights through the legislative process, while others mainly expressed concern about the ruling’s impact, particularly on poor and minority communities and on the doctor-patient relationship.

The American Medical Association called the ruling “an egregious allowance of government intrusion into the medical examination room, a direct attack on the practice of medicine and the patient-physician relationship, and a brazen violation of patients’ rights to evidence-based reproductive health services. States that end legal abortion will not end abortion—they will end safe abortion, risking devastating consequences, including patients’ lives.”

The group said it will use its lobbying heft to oppose laws and regulations that “compromises or criminalizes patient access to safe, evidence-based medical care, including abortion,” and to “protect the patient-physician relationship.”

The Society for Maternal-Fetal Medicine said its “support for reproductive rights and freedom is unwavering.” The group is “intensifying our efforts to protect access to abortion care and expand education related to reproductive health” and provided links to donate to organizations helping patients cover the costs of abortion access.

Three counseling and mental health-related groups, in a joint statement, said they were “profoundly disappointed” and said the ruling will lead to “adverse mental health consequences” and violence against pregnant women and mothers. The American Psychiatric Association, the American Psychological Association and the National Association of Social Workers pledged to work with Congress and state governments to protect abortion access.

The American Counseling Association said it opposed the decision and noted that some jurisdictions have proposed laws and regulations requiring clinicians to report clients who are seeking abortions. “Professional counselors are being placed in an unethical position. In counseling, clients are entitled to self-determination and to make decisions in the best interest of their health and well-being. Clients should have access to high-quality professional counseling without the fear of having their confidentiality unjustly waived,” ACA said in a statement.

Association of American Medical Colleges CEO David Skorton said, “laws and policies that restrict or otherwise interfere in the patient-physician relationship, and override what is ultimately a clinician’s responsibility to provide the best medical care for every patient.”

Even some groups outside the fields of reproductive care and mental health faulted the ruling. The Infectious Disease Society of America and the HIV Medicine Association, in a joint statement by their board leaders, said the outcome “sanctions government interference in patient autonomy and care and threatens the sanctity of the provider-patient relationship.”

“This decision will have a disproportionate impact on already marginalized communities and increase the rate of potentially life-threatening complications. Further, this precedent threatens the ability of populations heavily impacted by HIV, hepatitis C and other infectious diseases to access health care and make their own medical decisions,” the two groups said.

Similarly, the Association of Black Cardiologists said, “This decision will isolate the poor, socioeconomically disadvantaged, and minority populations specifically, widening the already large gaps in health care for our most vulnerable communities. It is important to underscore that this will occur against a backdrop of the highest maternal mortality rates in Black and Latino women creating additional barriers to achieving health equity.”

At least one trade group also weighed in, though it did not applaud or condemn the ruling. National Association of Manufacturers CEO Jay Timmons said in a statement the group would help members deal with personnel issues stemming from the decision.

“Even amid all positions and strongly held views, many businesses must now discern how best to support employees and families within the framework of the law. The NAM will work to connect our member companies with the legal, HR and health care information and resources they need to navigate the effects of the ruling,” Timmons said.