OB-GYN group backs abortion 'without limitations' or 'barriers,' trades barbs with pro-life group

A young protester holds a sign during a 'Pro Life' press conference in Wheeling, W.Va., Aug. 29, 2018. (OSV News photo/Mana Rabiee, Reuters)

WASHINGTON (OSV News) ─ A prominent national organization for OB-GYNs backed abortion "without limitations and without barriers" in a letter to the editor of The Washington Post, and traded barbs with a national pro-life group.

In a recent opinion piece for The Washington Post, Marjorie Dannenfelser, president of Susan B. Anthony Pro-Life America, and Kellyanne Conway, a pollster who was an adviser to former President Donald Trump and partners with SBA on election strategy, wrote that "if they want to win" in 2024, "Republicans need to go on offense on abortion."

"Democrats' message-testing instructs them to scaremonger about a GOP 'national ban' with no exceptions and to avoid important realities of a child's development -- such as a heartbeat at six weeks or the evidence that unborn children can feel pain by 15 weeks," the pair wrote. "Democrats are making a radical push for abortion on demand throughout pregnancy and will try to put some version of that question on the ballot in the coming election."

"True leaders must take the issue head-on and contrast the compassionate pro-life message that supports both mom and child with the extreme Democratic position," they added. "Otherwise, Republicans will lose this fight."

In a letter to the editor of the paper in response, Christopher M. Zahn, interim chief executive of the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, and Jenni Villavicencio, interim director of advocacy and public affairs for the Society of Family Planning, wrote that the pro-life piece contained "misleading information about abortion" that is "commonly used to strip access to abortion from patients such as ours and prevent clinicians from providing people with evidence-based health care."

Calling themselves "advocates for unrestricted access to abortion care," Zahn and Villavicencio wrote, "Abortion is safe. It improves and saves lives, and it must be available without restrictions, without limitations and without barriers -- just as any other critical part of health care."

In response, Dannenfelser said in a statement that "in an informed debate, the truth is what matters and now we finally hear the truth from the abortion lobby."

"So now we take this question of abortion limits to voters and those running for public office," she said. "Americans are compassionate people and overwhelmingly reject all-trimester abortions on demand. The more they learn of the extremist positions of organizations in power, the more they reject them."

In an interview with OSV News, Dr. Christina Francis, a board-certified OB-GYN and CEO of the American Association of Pro-Life Obstetricians and Gynecologists, said, "I think that this is perhaps the clearest that ACOG has ever been publicly on their position on this issue."

"But certainly, it unfortunately does not come as a surprise to those of us who have been following this," Francis said.

On its website, ACOG's policy statement on abortion says that the organization views abortion as "an essential component of comprehensive, evidence-based health care."

"As the leading medical organization dedicated to the health of individuals in need of gynecologic and obstetric care, the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG) supports the availability of high-quality reproductive health services for all people and is committed to protecting and increasing access to abortion," the statement says.

Francis called the ACOG statement "woefully out-of-step" with most U.S. OB-GYNs, who do not perform abortions.

Most OB-GYNs in the United States do not perform abortions, according to multiple studies. A February 2021 study by the Kaiser Family Foundation -- which took place before the Dobbs decision in June 2022 -- found that three-quarters of OB-GYNs reported their practices did not provide abortions for pregnancy termination, while 23% said they worked in practices that do. Most respondents who do not offer abortions refer their patients to other providers for them, while 13% said they would neither provide nor refer for abortions.

Among OB-GYNs who do not perform abortions, the most commonly cited reasons included their practice having a policy against it (49%), their view that such procedures were readily available elsewhere (45%) and personal opposition to the practice (31%).

Their abstention from abortion procedures is notable, Francis said, because any OB-GYN who has gone through a full residency program "has the technical knowledge and the technical skills to be able to do induced abortions if they chose to do it."

"So it's not that they don't know how to do them," Francis said. "They know how to do that, and it's that they choose to not do them."

Dr. Ingrid Skop, a fellow of ACOG, a board-certified OB-GYN and vice president and director of medical affairs at Charlotte Lozier Institute, said in a statement that "as an obstetrician for the last 30 years, I have advocated and cared for both of my patients -- mothers and their unborn children."

"This brazen proclamation from ACOG, while sad to see, is reflective of a discouraging new reality: In ACOG's leadership and the broader medical community, there's no place for dissent on the issue of unlimited abortion for any reason, at any time in pregnancy," Skop said, adding, "their promotion of elective abortion without limits isn't reflective of the views of their own members."
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Scanlon is a national reporter for OSV News covering Washington. Follow her on X (formerly known as Twitter) @kgscanlon.


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