Joint Letter of Protest
Christian Medical Association et al
Reproduced with permission
December 7, 2007
American College of Obstetricians and Gynecology
Douglas W. Laube, MD, President
PO Box 96920
Washington, D.C. 20090-6920
Dear Dr. Laube:
The undersigned individuals and organizations urge the repudiation and
withdrawal of the recently published position statement of The Committee on
Ethics of the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG),
Limits of Conscientious Refusal in Reproductive Medicine."
The ACOG statement suggests a profound misunderstanding of the nature and
exercise of conscience, an underlying bias against persons of faith and an
apparent attempt to disenfranchise physicians who oppose ACOG's political
activism on abortion.
The paper indicates that ACOG views the exercise of conscience and faith
not so much as a cornerstone right in a democracy or as a historic hallmark
of medicine, but rather as an inconvenient obstacle to abortion access.
A few excerpts from ACOG's paper illustrate these concerns:
1. "An appeal to conscience would express a sentiment
such as 'If I were to do 'x,' I could not live with myself / I would hate
myself, I wouldn't be able to sleep at night."
By caricaturing conscience as a pitifully self-centered, subjective
feeling, ACOG denigrates the objective sources of conviction. Physicians of
faith base decisions of conscience not on personal whims and feelings but on
the objective teachings of Scripture--the same Scriptures that have provided
the foundation for the laws of much of civilization. A physician's
conscience may also be informed by time-honored ethical standards such as
the Hippocratic Oath, which for centuries provided a foundation for medical
ethics until abortion advocacy censored its teachings.
2. Physicians may not exercise their right of
conscience if that might "constitute an imposition of religious or moral
beliefs on patients."
This harshly skewed view of the exercise of conscience would have the
practical effect of reducing physicians to pawns of patients, since in
ACOG's view, conscientiously declining a prescription or procedure is
tantamount to "imposing religious or moral beliefs on patients."
3. "Physiciansâ€¦have the duty to refer patients in a
timely manner to other providers if they do not feel they can in conscience
provide the standard reproductive service that patients request."
This assertion contradicts a basic corollary of conscience. The same
life-honoring, objective principles-"Thou shalt not kill," and "first, do no
harm"--that persuade many conscientious physicians not to perform abortions
also persuade them not to recommend someone else to do the deed.
4. "All healthcare providers must provide accurate and
unbiased information so that patients can make informed decisions."
Normally no one would question this principle, but in this case, context
is everything. Since ACOG has gone to court to fight laws requiring abortion
doctors to offer informed consent information to patients on the risks and
alternatives to abortion,1 clearly ACOG
intends to selectively apply this requirement only to pro-life physicians to
force them to offer abortion as an option.
5. "Providers with moral or religious objections
should â€¦ practice in proximity to individuals who do not share their viewsâ€¦"
It is incredible that ACOG would actually require a pro-life physician to
relocate his or her practice to be close to an abortion facility. Besides
the fact that this drastic requirement is selectively invoked only against
pro-life doctors, it would also have the negative practical impact of
removing desperately needed doctors from underserved areas.
ACOG's misguided and uninformed public statement on conscience limits is
bound to have the effect, whether unintended or actually intended, of
discouraging persons of faith from practicing or choosing obstetrics and
gynecology as a profession. At a time when many communities are already
suffering the loss of obstetricians and gynecologists forced out of their
practices for economic reasons, it seems especially unwise to send such a
message of ideological intolerance and religious discrimination.
ACOG's aggressive political advocacy for abortion has significantly
impaired its ability to speak for all physicians and to judge matters of
medical ethics without bias. We urge ACOG to reconsider and withdraw this
statement as a step toward remedying that lamentable loss of respectability
|David Stevens, MD
Chief Executive Officer
Christian Medical Association
|Denise M. Burke
Vice President & Legal Director
Americans United for Life
Family Research Council
|Michael J. O'Dea
Christus Medicus Foundation
|Bo Kuhar, PharmD
Pharmacists for Life International
Alabama Policy Institute
|Lynn D. Wardle
Bruce C. Hafen Professor of Law
Brigham Young University
|Joseph L. DeCook, MD
American Association of Pro-Life Obstetricians & Gynecologists
|Richard A. Watson, M.D., F.A.C.S.
Catholic Medical Association (USA)
|Dr. Carl Herbster
|Janice Shaw Crouse, Ph.D.
Director and Senior Fellow
The Beverly LaHaye Institute
|Mathew D. Staver
Founder and Chairman,
Dean and Professor of Law
Liberty University School of Law
President and Founder
|Carrie Gordon Earll
Focus on the Family
Coalition for Marriage and Family
|Samuel B. Casey
Christian Legal Society
Love and Responsibility Program
The Cardinal Newman Society
RNC for Life
|William J Murray
Religious Freedom Coalition
Vice President for
Christian Coalition of America
Concerned Women for America
|Mrs. Beverly LaHaye
Chairman and Founder
Concerned Women for America
National Black Pro-Life Union
|Paul W. Kortz, RN, BSN, CFCE, CFCP
of Fertility Care Professionals
Family Leader Network
Traditional Values Coalition
President & Founder
Founder & Chairman of the Board,
Prison Fellowship and Prison Fellowship International
American College of Obstetricians v. Thornburgh, 737
F.2d 283, 297-98 (3d Cir.1984).
cc: ACOG Executive Board Affairs
ACOG Government Relations
ACOG Clinical Practice