Washington, DC – In updated guidance, the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG) reaffirms its longstanding position that access to safe abortion is a necessary component of comprehensive health care. The updated Committee Opinion on Increasing Access to Abortion responds to an increasingly restrictive policy environment and outlines specific legislative, structural, societal, and financial barriers that must be addressed in order to protect and expand equitable access to abortion care. The document also explains how stigma and fear of violence can be just as powerful as other factors in imposing barriers to care.
Although abortion is extremely safe, it is often targeted for medically unnecessary, arbitrary requirements that restrict the ability of patients to access abortion care. Specifically, the Committee Opinion calls for the cease and repeal of:
- bans on abortion at arbitrary gestational ages,
- requirements that only physicians or obstetrician-gynecologists may provide abortion care,
- telemedicine bans,
- restrictions on medication abortion,
- requirements for mandatory counseling and forced delay before obtaining care,
- ultrasound requirements,
- mandated parental involvement, and
- facility and staffing requirements known as Targeted Regulation of Abortion Provider (TRAP) laws.
“Abortion is important to the health and lives of our patients, yet access remains a legislative and regulatory target at both the state and the federal levels,” said Eva Chalas, MD, FACOG, FACS, President of ACOG. “Data have shown that when abortion is restricted, our patients’ health suffers. That’s why ACOG is committed to leading the medical community in pursuing evidence-based policies and structural change that will make essential abortion care accessible and available.”
“For the sake of patients across the country, we must continue to advocate for the repeal of barriers to abortion access and for patient-focused, constructive policies to protect the health and well-being of patients and to promote equitable care,” said Daniel Grossman, MD, who contributed to the Committee Opinion. “But beyond that, we must work together as a community to address the stigma and fear that prevents some patients from getting the care they need and that prevents some clinicians from offering comprehensive reproductive medical care that includes abortion.”
“Restrictions and barriers on access to abortion care disproportionately impact those who are historically marginalized from medical care more broadly. This includes young people, people of color, those living in rural areas, those with low incomes, and individuals who are incarcerated” said Jamila Perritt, MD, MPH, Chair of the ACOG Committee on Health Care for Underserved Women, which issued the guidance. “Focusing our efforts on improving access for communities most affected by these barriers and restrictions will improve health outcomes for all.”
Protecting comprehensive reproductive health care access is a policy priority for ACOG. This year, ACOG secured a nationwide temporary injunction against the U.S. Food and Drug Administration’s in-person dispensing requirement for mifepristone, providing many ACOG members with the option of prescribing medication abortion to patients through the duration of the COVID-19 pandemic without exposing themselves and their patients to unnecessary risk of infection or travel delays.