The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG) led a coalition of major medical organizations representing nearly 1,000,000 health care professionals in filing an amicus brief telling the United States Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit that the COVID-19 pandemic should not be used as a pretext to effectively ban abortion in Texas.
The right to terminate a pregnancy is a constitutionally protected legal right. However, a March 22, 2020, Order from Texas Governor Greg Abbott concerning procedures to be delayed or cancelled during the COVID-19 pandemic and its interpretation by the Texas Attorney General would impose criminal and other penalties on medical professionals for providing such care. “For the first time since 1973, abortion is effectively illegal in Texas,” the brief states. The brief explains that abortion is an essential, time-sensitive, and safe component of health care and that the there is no medical justification for this move.
The 20 major medical organizations, which include the American Medical Association and organizations of front-line medical professionals such as the American Academy of Family Physicians, the American College of Physicians, the American College of Nurse-Midwives, the American Academy of Pediatrics, the American Psychiatric Association, the American Osteopathic Association, and the American Academy of Nursing, explain that abortion is a time-sensitive procedure that should not be delayed or restricted. The brief explains that permitting abortion care – which is essential, time-sensitive health care – will not substantially increase the burdens hospitals face as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. Instead, forcing women to carry pregnancies to term or to resort to illegal methods of abortion will increase reliance on the already strained health care system. Texas’s approach is contrary to the shared position of ACOG, the American Board of Obstetrics and Gynecology, the Society for Maternal-Fetal Medicine, and other physician organizations, which categorizes abortion as a time-sensitive, essential procedure. The AMA holds a similar position, as do other professional societies.
The brief adds: “The Governor’s decision to effectively ban abortion in Texas and to criminalize physicians and medical professionals for providing necessary abortion care during the COVID-19 pandemic lacks a valid medical justification. If allowed to remain in effect, the Governor’s order will render abortion inaccessible in the state and severely harm women.”
The brief explains that there is no evidence that delaying abortion during the pandemic would mitigate personal protective equipment (PPE) shortages or promote public health and safety. Indeed, forcing women to carry pregnancies to term or to resort to illegal abortion is likely to increase use of PPE.
ACOG President Ted L. Anderson, MD, PhD, FACOG, FACS, stated, “In the face of this pandemic, physicians and clinicians across specialties on the frontlines are putting themselves at risk in order to meet our professional, ethical, and moral obligation to care for our patients. Imposing criminal penalties on health care professionals during this time will leave them unable to provide patients with needed care. The consequences of being unable to obtain an abortion profoundly impact a person’s life, health, and well-being.”
Skye Perryman, JD, Chief Legal Officer for ACOG, added, “We are disappointed to see that Texas is ignoring the voice of the medical community and placing politics above the advice of physicians. Using the COVID-19 pandemic to push political agendas is unconscionable and is harmful the health of women.”
Read the full brief.