The American Medical Association Officially Took A Stand On Abortion

by Lani Seelinger
Mark Wilson/Getty Images News/Getty Images

The American Medical Association has hardly painted itself as a partisan organization in the past, but recent events during the Trump administration have forced the organization to take a stronger stance on one particularly polarizing issue. The American Medical Association's abortion stance has become abundantly clear as it just publicly backed abortion rights in a lawsuit its filing against North Dakota.

In March, North Dakota passed a law requiring abortion providers to inform patients receiving medication abortions that the procedure was reversible, according to the Associated Press. This is not supported by any scientific evidence, the AMA said. Once the patient takes the abortion-inducing series of drugs, there is no medically accepted way to stop the process. The AMA's lawsuit claims that requiring doctors to provide patients with misleading or untrue information puts “physicians in a place where we are required by law to commit an ethical violation,” per Time.

The patient-physician relationship is the cornerstone of health care, and depends upon honest, open conversations about all of a patient’s health care options,” AMA President Patrice A. Harris, M.D., M.A., wrote in a statement explaining the lawsuit. “North Dakota’s law undermines this relationship by requiring physicians to mislead and misinform their patients with messages that contradict reality and science. The AMA will always defend science and open conversations about all health care options available to patients.”

The AMA's lawsuit also challenges another North Dakota law that forces abortion providers to tell patients that the procedure ends "the life of a whole, separate, unique, living human being," according to CBS News.

In the AMA's view, this requirement "forces physicians to endorse a controversial and ideological government message which misleads patients, which is unmoored from the scientific facts relevant to the patient's need to consent to abortion, and which shames and stigmatizes the patients' decision to seek an abortion," per CBS News.

The AMA is the largest organization representing physicians in America, and as such it has tended to avoid taking sides in politically divisive debates in the public sphere, as Time wrote. The lawsuit it filed against North Dakota, however, is already the second time it has jumped into the abortion debate this year, according to Time.

In March, it filed a lawsuit over the Trump administration's new rule limiting the effect of Title X and controlling what doctors could tell their Title X patients.

"Because of the administration’s overreach and interference in health care decision making, physicians will be prohibited from having open, frank conversations with their patients about all their healthcare options," then-AMA President Barbara L. McAneny, M.D., wrote in a statement. "This blatant violation of patients’ rights under the Code of Medical Ethics is untenable"

In her statement, McAneny continued on to point out the absurdity of the situation in which the government requires doctors providing abortion to relay incomplete information to their patients by inviting readers to consider what that would look like with doctors in other specialties. What if, for example, "a primary care physician couldn’t talk about insulin with a diabetic patient"?

"We cannot allow outside parties to insert themselves into the most personal conversations between patients and physicians," McAneny wrote. "AMA intends to protect the patient-physician relationship anywhere it is threatened, including in the courts and we hope you’ll support us in this fight."