Missouri’s Effort to Shut Down Women’s Health Clinic Infringes on Patient-Physician Relationship

Statement attributable to:

Robert McLean, MD, FACP

President, American College of Physicians

Washington, DC (June 4, 2019) — The American College of Physicians (ACP) is deeply concerned that efforts by the state of Missouri to close down the only clinic in the state offering abortions will restrict access to women’s reproductive health care services and jeopardize the patient-physician relationship. The state’s actions to terminate the license for a Planned Parenthood Clinic in St. Louis appears to be an abuse of regulatory authority to deny women access to health care services guaranteed by the U.S. Constitution. 

It also directly interferes with the patient-physician relationship, by requiring as a condition of clinic licensure that physicians order and perform invasive procedures on their patients, such as repeated pelvic exams, which are not supported by medical evidence, the physician’s professional judgment, and the patient’s own interests and preferences. ACP firmly believes any medical procedure or treatment plan should be discussed between a patient and the physician, not the government. As a physician, I fear that interference in the patient-physician relationship will set a dangerous precedent in health care and will prevent physicians from providing legal and safe medical counsel to patients that need it the most.

ACP’s 2018 position paper, “Women’s Health Policy in the United States,” calls for “respect for the principle of patient autonomy on matters affecting patients' individual health and reproductive decision-making rights, including about types of contraceptive methods they use and whether or not to continue a pregnancy as defined by existing constitutional law. Accordingly, ACP opposes government restrictions that would erode or abrogate a woman's right to continue or discontinue a pregnancy. While ACP recognizes and is respectful of different views that individuals, including physicians and patients, have on these issues, we believe that a woman has the right to make health care decisions about matters that affect her personal, individual health.” 

The effort by Missouri to close down the only clinic in the state offering abortion, and the requirements it imposes on physicians, will deny women access to reproductive health care services—going against ACP’s policy. ACP will continue to advocate for all patients to have access to affordable, comprehensive, and nondiscriminatory health care coverage, and we will oppose any regulations that limit women’s access to reproductive health care by putting medically unnecessary restrictions on health care professionals or facilities.

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