Advocacy and Health Policy |
Understanding ACOG’s Policy on Abortion
Explore frequently asked questions about ACOG's updated Policy on Abortion.
Why did ACOG change its policy? Why now?
We have updated the Statement of Policy on Abortion to reflect the current state of science, evidence-based medicine, and the legal landscape.
- It is standard for Statements of Policy to be updated as a result of either routine review or changes in the landscape of health care provision. ACOG's Board of Directors approved the updated Statement of Policy as a result of the anticipated upending of 50 years of well-settled law that protects access to abortion and the potential for significant legal, financial, and criminal consequences for our members.
- The goal of the statement is to be as clear, supportive, and protective of our members as possible.
Why is ACOG's goal to have a strong voice about abortion?
It is essential that ACOG provide a clear statement: Abortion is an essential component of comprehensive medical care, and people need unimpeded access to the full spectrum of reproductive health care options.
- ACOG recognizes that it is our responsibility, as the experts on reproductive health care and leaders in advocacy on behalf of our members and the patients they serve, to crystalize and clarify our policy on abortion, in this moment of widespread confusion and panic in the United States.
- Questions about whether and when to access abortion care should be removed from the political context and returned to the patient and their trusted health care professional.
- It is unacceptable for doctors and health care professionals to be punished, fined, or sued and face imprisonment for delivering evidence-based care.
What kinds of threats are ACOG members facing?
Twenty-six states are poised to ban abortion if the Supreme Court overturns Roe v. Wade. Forty-two states have introduced 546 pieces of legislation banning or restricting abortion so far in 2022. Each piece of legislation is different, using different language and rationales. State legislators are taking it upon themselves to define complex medical concepts without reference to medical evidence. Some of the penalties for violating these vague, unscientific laws include criminal sentences.
What is an example of a complex medical concept that is being misused by state legislators?
One of the most concerning medical concepts that is being misrepresented and unscientifically redefined is viability. The word viability is used in the political arena and defined in proposed legislation without regard to medical evidence or the facts of a particular case. Questions about whether and when to access abortion care should be removed from the political context and returned to the patient and their trusted health care professional.
This policy is different from the policy that has been in place over the years. Some have noticed that references to viability have been removed. Can you explain this change?
As obstetrician–gynecologists understand, viability is a confluence of multiple complex factors, only one of which is gestational age. ACOG recognizes that this complexity, which is different for each unique pregnancy, is best evaluated and managed within the context of a trusted relationship between clinician and patient. As a science-based organization, ACOG works hard to combat misinformation about obstetric and gynecologic health care. Statements about "abortion up until the point of birth" or "elective abortion" are unscientific and crafted to polarize the conversation about abortion.
How can I speak effectively and respectfully to people in my community who oppose or are conflicted about abortion?
Studies show that the vast majority of obstetrician–gynecologists, around 95%, would help a patient in need of an abortion in some way, regardless of the obstetrician–gynecologist’s personal feelings.
We recognize that abortion can be a complicated topic for some. We also recognize that the decision whether to have an abortion may be a complex one. It is for these very reasons that this decision should be left to a patient and their trusted health care professional. Doctors and clinicians must be able to provide unbiased, factual information to patients regarding reproductive health care options. And people must be able to use their expertise in their own lives to make decisions for themselves and their families.
Learn more about how to talk about abortion.
How can I use this policy to address common mischaracterizations about abortion later in pregnancy?
We recommend using the term "abortion later in pregnancy" instead of "late-term abortion," which is a biased, nonmedical phrase intended to appropriate clinical language in order to misconstrue the reality of patient care. Abortion later in pregnancy is very safe and typically occurs as a result of complications in the life or pregnancy of a pregnant person.
- Approximately 1% to 2% of abortions occur after 21 weeks
- Approximately 91% of abortions occur before 13 weeks
- When abortions occur later in the pregnancy, they sometimes involve balancing medical concerns; we don’t believe that elected politicians, who lack our members’ education, training, experience, expertise, and responsibility to patients, can or should be in the exam room weighing those factors or in a position of substituted judgment for our members and their patients