June 25, 2012

Doctor Speaks Out Against Abortion Laws That Require Lying to Patients

In a recent letter to the New England Journal of Medicine, Playing Politics with the Doctor–Patient Relationship, physician and abortion provider Deborah Oyer describes how laws restricting abortion access threaten the relationship between doctors and patients.

Oyer writes specifically about Arizona’s House Bill 1359, which states that doctors can’t be held liable if they lie to women about the health of the fetus. In other words, if a doctor discovers that something may be wrong with the fetus and thinks this information may lead the woman to have an abortion, he or she is not obligated to tell the woman what he or she suspects or discovers.

The Arizona bill is not the only anti-choice bill that is problematic for doctors. Oyer writes:

Many laws have undermined the doctor–patient relationship — mandating that doctors say things to patients that are blatantly untrue, requiring that specific tests be performed whether the doctor thinks they are necessary or not, and requiring waiting periods regardless of whether the woman and her doctor think she is confident in her decision.

Oyer praises physicians who have spoken out about these problematic laws, but also questions why more aren’t questioning them:

But, quite frankly, I wonder why so few have come forward and what has taken them so long. Arizona passed a bill that legitimizes lying to one’s patients. Where were the medical associations testifying against this law? Why did they not pull out their full lobbying power to put a stop to this intrusion into the doctor–patient relationship?

The full text of the letter is freely available online. For more from physicians who support women’s reproductive rights, check out Physicians for Reproductive Choice and Health.


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