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ACP is “Greatly Concerned” About Court Decision to Allow Implementation of Physician Gag Rule

Statement attributable to:
Robert McLean, MD, FACP
President, American College of Physicians

Washington, DC (June 21, 2019) — The American College of Physicians (ACP) is greatly concerned about  a federal appeals court decision to allow the Trump administration to proceed on implementing a rule to strip Title X Family Planning Program funding from any clinic that provides abortions or abortion referrals. ACP believes the rule will restrict access to care for millions of patients and impose a major breach in the patient-physician relationship—essentially, imposing a gag rule on physicians by dictating the medical advice and referrals that they can provide their patients.

As a physician, I firmly believe that access to quality and affordable health care should never be jeopardized by political decisions, nor should the government ever dictate to physicians the advice and care we can provide to patients. By allowing the administration to proceed with the Title X rule, even before the court has ruled on the legality of the rule and the objections raised by ACP and others to it, the government will be inappropriately inserting itself into the patient-physician relationship, and could cause patients to make dangerous decisions regarding preventive care and treatment in the face of uncertainty and lack of resources. Furthermore, many clinics may close their doors if denied federal funding, rather than accept the administration’s orders on the services they can provide and the advice and referrals their physicians can provide patients.

In April, ACP signed onto amicus briefs with other medical organizations to oppose changes to Title X— the only federal program exclusively dedicated to providing underserved patient populations with necessary health care services, including cancer screenings, vaccinations, and family planning services. The briefs expressed concern to the courts that changes to Title X would risk access to care and put facilities in the difficult position to close or limit their operations unless they agree to unethical intrusions to the patient-physician relationship. Moreover, when the draft rule was introduced in February, ACP wrote that the changes would restrict the services and care clinicians can offer their patients who are seeking reproductive health care services, create more administrative burdens for physicians, and increase documentation requirements.

The circuit court erred in allowing the administration to proceed with implementation of the Title X rule, even before it heard and ruled on the arguments that we and others have made in our amicus briefs. ACP remains committed to doing everything it can to ensure that the administration’s Title X rule is reversed and not implemented.

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About the American College of Physicians

The American College of Physicians is the largest medical specialty organization in the United States with members in more than 145 countries worldwide. ACP membership includes 154,000 internal medicine physicians (internists), related subspecialists, and medical students. Internal medicine physicians are specialists who apply scientific knowledge and clinical expertise to the diagnosis, treatment, and compassionate care of adults across the spectrum from health to complex illness. Follow ACP on Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram.

Contact: Julie Hirschhorn, (202) 261-4523, jhirschhorn@acponline.org