ACOG Statement on “Personhood” Measures
November 9, 2022
The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG) opposes any proposals, laws, or policies that attempt to confer "personhood" to a fertilized egg, embryo, or fetus. These laws and policies are used to limit, restrict, or outright prohibit access to care for women and people seeking reproductive health care, including those who are pregnant, those who are trying to prevent pregnancy, and those who are trying to become pregnant, and they have been used as the basis of surveillance and prosecution of pregnant people. The decision in Dobbs v. Jackson Women's Health Organization in 2022 opened the door for a resurgence of such proposals and increased the threat that this type of designation will be leveraged to penalize and target pregnant women and people. ACOG opposes so-called "personhood" laws and their many iterations and other statutes that attach criminal liability to the conduct of pregnant people with respect to their own health. ACOG advocates against the adoption of “personhood” measures in any form and urges the repeal and reversal of these policies because of the harm they inflict.
Access to evidence-based, comprehensive reproductive health care is critical for the lives and health of the women and people for whom obstetrician–gynecologists provide care. This includes all medical interventions that allow people to determine whether and when to become or to be pregnant, including contraception, abortion, and in vitro fertilization. Assigning rights to fertilized eggs compromises access to essential facets of medical care. Elevating the legal status of fertilized eggs to that of women and pregnant people has wide implications for access to medications, medical interventions, and management of high-risk pregnancies. 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 and people seeking reproductive health care.
Obstetrician–gynecologists are specialists in the unique needs of their patients throughout the span of their lifetimes. Their education, training, and experience are cultivated over many years to ensure that the women and people in their care are supported in the preventive, reproductive, and critical care that they need. Requiring physicians to treat an egg, embryo, or fetus as a person with the same scope of rights as people in their care will jeopardize the lives and health of those patients. This conflicts with the patient–clinician relationship and contradicts fundamental, deeply rooted principles of medical ethics.
Any interference in the ability of patients to access health care or interference in the ability of obstetrician–gynecologists to provide needed health care is inappropriate, unethical, and unacceptable. ACOG urges policy makers to reject and repeal personhood measures in every form.
Approved by the Board of Directors: November 2022