On May 17, 2021, the US Supreme Court announced that it will hear Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization, a challenge to a Mississippi law banning abortion care after 15 weeks of pregnancy. The Court’s decision could have profound consequences for clinicians’ ability to provide comprehensive reproductive health care across the country.
What Does This Mean?
In a statement responding to the Court’s announcement, ACOG CEO Maureen G. Phipps, MD, MPH, said “ACOG hopes that the Supreme Court will once again rely on precedent as well as evidence-based medicine to uphold the right of patients to access safe, legal abortion care, as was established by the Court itself decades ago.”
We cannot predict what will happen in this case, but the stakes are high: absent federal constitutional protections, the country’s already vast access divide will continue to widen, exacerbating grave inequities faced by communities who already experience systemic barriers to health care. Over the past decade alone, states have advanced increasingly severe legislation to roll back and even ban abortion access and impose professional, civil, and even criminal penalties on physicians for providing safe, high-quality abortion care to their patients. Many of these laws have been blocked by the courts, underscoring the importance of the US Supreme Court’s role as a constitutional backstop.
An Existing Access Crisis
Abortion, although legal, is increasingly out of reach because of numerous restrictions imposed by the government that target patients seeking abortion and their health care practitioners. While courts have blocked many of the most overt restrictions and outright bans, those that are in effect have eroded access to care, contributed to stigma against providers and patients, curtailed training opportunities, limited the pool of qualified providers, and forced clinicians to practice outside of the bounds of their medical training and professional judgement. Adolescents, people of color, those living in rural areas, those with low incomes, and people who are incarcerated can face disproportionate effects of restrictions.
What Can Obstetrician-Gynecologists Do Today?
ACOG has long asserted that medically unjustified regulation of abortion care imposes burdens on women’s health, rather than improving it, and will continue to advocate at all levels to improve our patients’ ability to access quality, essential care. You can join us by:
- Sharing your story – let us know your firsthand perspective on the importance of access to abortion care and the detrimental impact of political interference on patient care
- Keeping an eye out in our communications for developments and opportunities to continue making your voice heard
- Following and retweeting @ACOGAction on Twitter for breaking news updates
- Visiting ACOG’s policy priorities page for advocacy resources and ACOG clinical guidance
ACOG’s position remains firm: political interference in the patient-physician relationship is inappropriate and dangerous. We are dedicated to protecting our members and their ability to practice medicine according to their years of training, professional judgement, and the best medical evidence. If you have questions, please contact ACOG’s State Government Affairs Department at [email protected].