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ACOG Statement on “Personhood” Measures

February 10, 2012

Washington, DC -- The American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG) is unequivocally opposed to the so-called "personhood" laws or amendments being considered in several states. These measures erode women's basic rights to privacy and bodily integrity; deny women access to the full spectrum of preventive health care including contraception; and undermine the doctor-patient relationship. ACOG firmly believes that science must be at the core of public health policies and medical decision-making that affect the health and life of women.

Like Mississippi's failed "Personhood Amendment" Proposition 26, these misleading and ambiguously worded "personhood" measures substitute ideology for science and represent a grave threat to women's health and reproductive rights that, if passed, would have long-term negative outcomes for our patients, their families, and society. Although the individual wording in these proposed measures varies from state to state, they all attempt to give full legal rights to a fertilized egg by defining "personhood" from the moment of fertilization, before conception (ie, pregnancy/ implantation) has occurred. This would have wide-reaching harmful implications for the practice of medicine and on women's access to contraception, fertility treatments, pregnancy termination, and other essential medical procedures.

These "personhood" proposals, as acknowledged by proponents, would make condoms, natural family planning, and spermicides the only legally allowed forms of birth control. Thus, some of the most effective and reliable forms of contraception, such as oral contraceptives, intrauterine devices (IUDs), and other forms of FDA-approved hormonal contraceptives could be banned in states that adopt "personhood" measures. Women's very lives would be jeopardized if physicians were prohibited from terminating life-threatening ectopic and molar pregnancies. Women who experience pregnancy loss or other negative pregnancy outcomes could be prosecuted in some cases.  

So-called "personhood" measures would have a negative impact on fertility treatments, including in vitro fertilization (IVF), that allow otherwise infertile couples to achieve pregnancy and create their families. Such proposals would also invariably ban embryonic stem cell research, depriving all of society potential lifesaving therapies.

ACOG supports guaranteed access to the full array of clinical and reproductive services appropriate to each individual woman's needs throughout her life. These "personhood" measures must be defeated in the best interest of women's health.  

The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (The College), a 501(c)(3) organization, is the nation’s leading group of physicians providing health care for women. As a private, voluntary, nonprofit membership organization of approximately 55,000 members, The College strongly advocates for quality health care for women, maintains the highest standards of clinical practice and continuing education of its members, promotes patient education, and increases awareness among its members and the public of the changing issues facing women’s health care. The American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG), a 501(c)(6) organization, is its companion organization. www.acog.org

 

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