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Government Relations Committee: State legislative update

Dr. Tony OgburnTony Ogburn, MD, District VIII legislative chair

The Annual ACOG State Legislative Roundtable was held in Washington, DC, September 14–15, and District VIII was well represented. State legislative chairs and lobbyists (from the states that have one) discussed a variety of state legislative issues at this meeting. In addition to a number of topics that have been at the forefront of ob-gyns’ minds for some time—reproductive rights, home births, and medical liability—several emerging issues were addressed.

Environmental toxins and reproductive health
ACOG President Elect Jeanne A. Conry, MD, PhD, gave an overview of how environmental issues affect reproductive health. There is growing concern that exposure to a variety of toxins may have a negative influence on fertility and pregnancy. Currently, there is not enough sound data to guide this discussion, but ACOG should continue to address this issue.

Dense breast legislation
A number of states have considered or passed laws regarding notification and/or evaluation of women if their mammogram shows they have dense breasts. Research indicates that further evaluation of these women creates a lot of anxiety and expense but doesn’t prevent cancer or decrease mortality. Still, advocates for such laws have a strong, emotional message that is hard to counter effectively.

Over-the-counter oral contraceptives
There is increasing interest by a number of organizations in making oral contraceptives more readily available to decrease our nation’s persistent, unacceptably high unintended pregnancy rate. A large body of literature generally supports the safety of increased access. ACOG released a Committee Opinion in November recommending oral contraceptives be available over the counter. However, it could take years before the US Food and Drug Administration takes action. Novel approaches to increase access can occur at the state level though, especially if ACOG is supportive of the concept.

Health care reform
Attendees heard an excellent summary of the potential effects the Affordable Care Act will have on women’s health by Joan Alker, research associate professor at Georgetown University Health Policy Institute. I encourage you to review the State Health Care Reform page on the ACOG website, which is dedicated to this issue.

Please consider attending the 2013 ACOG Congressional Leadership Conference, The President’s Conference, in Washington, DC, March 3–5. The meeting is a great opportunity to learn more about advocacy and get involved. Contact your district or section officers for more information.