By Randall K. O’Bannon, Ph.D. NRL Director of Education & Research
In recent years, nothing has been more reliable than the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG) sounding their support for whatever the latest terrible scheme dreamed up by the abortion industry.
Of course, ACOG does not speak for all Ob-Gyns, and the irony is that statistically, even most of the Ob-Gyns who are members of ACOG do not perform abortions. But it has a big voice, and given its assumed prestige, a thumbs-up or a thumbs down from ACOG has always carried significant, albeit unearned, weight, and that has come down reliably and heavily in favor of the pro-abortion cause.
Want to allow abortionists to prescribe dangerous abortion pills online by a video webcam and ship them directly to women’s homes? ACOG’s got your back!
Want to discredit the safe and realistic possibility of halting a chemical abortion ? ACOG will ignore scientific research and thousands of cases of successful reversals to argue that the process is unproven or even dangerous.
Concerned that governors trying to control the spread of Covid will limit medical services to those facing emergencies or needing treatment for the coronavirus? Have ACOG issue a statement declaring that abortion should not be delayed but is “an essential component of comprehensive health care” (Statement 3/18/20).
These are only the latest pro-abortion deliverances from this medical society. Before this, they were in the vanguard of dismissing the possibility that the fetus at twenty weeks of gestation can feel pain, despite increasing scientific evidence that the unborn child has all the physical structures necessary for pain by that time or even earlier.
ACOG’s abortion advocacy has been long, consistent, and extreme.
A history of abortion advocacy
Even the American Medical Association (AMA), no particular friend of the pro-life movement, found partial-birth abortion (where an abortionist partially delivers a baby, stabs surgical scissors into the back of the baby’s head and then suctions out the child’s brains) “ethically wrong” and “not good medicine.”
By contrast, ACOG filed an amicus (“friend of the court”) brief defending it.
Worse, ACOG appears in its public statements to have taken the suggestion of then-Clinton White House domestic policy adviser Elena Kagan that partial-birth abortion was “the best or most appropriate procedure in a particular circumstance to save the life or preserve the health of a woman” over its own original private medical determination that it could “identify no circumstances under which [the partial-birth] procedure . . . would be the only option to save the life or preserve the health of the woman.”
Going back even further, in 1971, two years before the Supreme Court made abortion legal across the U.S., ACOG signed onto an amicus brief challenging Georgia’s already lax abortion law, in the case that became Doe v. Bolton. Georgia’s law required that a woman have two outside doctors certify that pregnancy would endanger her physical or mental health, the health of her fetus, or that her pregnancy was the result of rape or incest.
Not good enough for ACOG. They felt that even these very minimal limitations interfered with a woman’s “right to privacy” and her doctor’s right to practice medicine as he or she saw fit.
A little over a year after Roe was decided, ACOG declared its full allegiance to the 1973 decision and the High Court’s policy of abortion on demand without any legal limits:
“The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists affirms its support of the right of women to unhindered access to safe abortion services and opposes proposed legislation or a constitutional amendment limiting this access guaranteed to women.”
The current official abortion policy of ACOG was first drafted in January of 1993. It has since been reaffirmed multiple times, most recently in November of 2020. ACOG asserts that “Induced abortion is an essential component of women’s health care.”
ACOG “recognizes and respects that individuals may be personally opposed to abortion” but says that “health care providers should not seek to impose their personal beliefs upon their patients nor allow personal beliefs to compromise patient health, access to care, or informed consent.” While this clearly is meant to muzzle Ob-Gyns who would oppose abortion, it is not clear how this would limit those supporting abortion
In the name of opposition to “laws and regulations that operate to prevent advancements in medicine,” ACOG defends the ability of its membership to follow “evidence-based protocols for medical abortion” (which enabled abortionists to alter recommended dosages, ignore gestational limits, allow at home self-administration of pills, etc. before the FDA modified its chemical abortion protocol in 2016).
On those same grounds, ACOG stated its opposition to “state and federal laws that prohibit specific surgical abortion procedures” (such as partial-birth abortion) that “disrupt the evolution of surgical technique and prevent physicians from providing the best or most appropriate care for some patients.”
Abortion up to “viability” … and beyond
In its policy statement, ACOG still officially claims to oppose abortion after “viability. ”
“Viability,” to ACOG, is “the capacity of the fetus for sustained survival outside the woman’s uterus.” However unambiguous as that sounds, ACOG adds the qualification that “Whether or not this capacity exists is a medical determination, may vary with each pregnancy and is a matter for the judgment of the responsible health care provider.”
How far this subjective judgment can be stretched is made apparent in another ACOG document, this one the Obstetric Care Consensus on “Periviable Birth” (October 2017). “Periviability” refers to the limits of viability, which ACOG claims to be somewhere between 20 weeks and 25 weeks and six days of gestation.*
With clinical language masking the horror of passive infanticide of an abortion survivor, ACOG notes
Survival of infants born in the periviable period is dependent of resuscitation and support. Between 22 weeks and 25 weeks of gestation, there may be factors in addition to gestational age that will affect the potential for survival and the determination of viability. Importantly, some families, concordant with their values and preferences, may choose to forego such resuscitation and support.
While the survival of unborn children at the earliest extreme of ACOG’s “periviable” range is currently rare, medical centers taking a pro-active approach have been able to save a significant percentage (73.5%) of those children born prematurely at 22 -26 weeks gestation (Šimják, et al., Journal of Perinatal Medicine, January 2018).
The inescapable conclusion is that ACOG is comfortable with allowing even those babies born after viability to die if families for whatever reason decide to refuse treatment, even treatment that could and quite possibly would save that child’s life.
The application of this principle was seen in their willingness to defend partial birth abortion, even after it was revealed that this was one of the methods used to healthy babies aborted at 29 or 30 weeks, well past the point of viability (Testimony of James McMahon given to the Subcommittee on the Constitution of the Committee on the Judiciary,” 104th Congress, First Session, June 8, 1995).
Ignoring the unborn patient
Against the popular understanding that an obstetrician is fundamentally committed to the medical care of and welfare two patients, the mother and the unborn child, ACOG’s Ethics committee declares that “[Even if] a woman’s autonomous decision [seems] not to promote beneficence-based obligations (of the woman or the physician) to the fetus … the obstetrician must respect the patient’s autonomy, continue to care for the patient, and not intervene against the patient’s wishes, regardless of the consequences.”
The same ethics committee states elsewhere that “The use of judicial authority to implement treatment regimens to protect the fetus violates the pregnant woman’s autonomy and should be avoided” (ACOG, Ethics in Obstetrics and Gynecology, 2004; ACOG Committee Opinion #321: “Maternal Decision Making, Ethics, and the Law,” 2005).
There is to be no discussion, no consideration of the rights or interests of the child if the mother does not wish it. The pregnant woman’s autonomy trumps all.
Practically speaking, then, as far as ACOG is concerned, there is no moral difference between delivering or killing a baby.
Letting abortionists dictate policy and practice
Read carefully ACOG’s most recent Practice Bulletin on “Medication Abortion Up to 70 Days of Gestation” (Obstetrics & Gynecology, October 2020) and you’ll see that it says “This Practice Bulletin was developed jointly by the Committee on Practice Bulletins – Gynecology and the Society of Family Planning in collaboration with Mitchell D. Creinin, MD and Daniel A Grossman, MD.”
These names may sound familiar. Creinin and Grossman are two of the abortion industry’s superstars, abortionists who are researchers affiliated with major academic institutions known for their abortion training and advocacy.
Mitchell Creinin has been conducting research on chemical abortifacients since at least 1993 and recently did a study “debunking” Abortion Pill Reversal, or APR. Despite Creinin’s spin of the results, his study actually demonstrated that APR worked and that it was failure to attempt reversal with progesterone that was dangerous (NRL News Today, 1/2/20 https://www.nationalrighttolifenews.org/2020/01/media-medical-associations-mischaracterize-study-of-abortion-reversal-treatment-chemical-abortion-not-abortion-pill-reversal-is-dangerous/).
Daniel Grossman heads the University of California San Francisco’s Advancing New Standards in Reproductive Health (ANSIRH) program, where abortion is one of its four main research areas. Grossman has done abortion research in many of those areas and is the media’s go to expert on the safety of chemical and telemedical abortions, the rise of do-it-yourself or “self-managed” abortions, the impact of abortion restrictions and clinic closures, etc.
ACOG lets these unapologetic abortionists and abortion advocates assess the safety of abortion methods they perform and promote and then allows them to promulgate that spin as the official position of the national group, making these far from objective assessments.
This is not the only time activist pro-abortionists have been allowed to speak for ACOG. Mitchell Creinin wrote the first practice bulletin for ACOG on “medical abortion” in 2005 and Grossman and Creinin worked on an updated version of this practice bulletin which appeared in 2014. Daniel Grossman joined with other abortionists on ACOG’s official practice bulletin on second trimester abortion in 2013.
This is something worth keeping in mind when deciding how to assess official ACOG declarations on the safety of the latest abortion method, the impact of pro-life legislation, abortion’s long term physical effects, or the social and psychological impact of abortion.
Abandoning medicine for politics
There are many fine Ob-Gyns in the United States, diligently and dutifully serving the medical needs of both mother and child so that both may thrive. Many are members of the pro-life alternative to ACOG, the American Association of Pro-Life Obstetricians & Gynecologists (AAPLOG).
But years ago, ACOG, as an organization, abandoned its high and sacred calling, ignoring everything it knew about the humanity of both of its patients, forsaking its charge to guide mothers through pregnancy and help them deliver healthy babies, choosing the politically expedient route, providing a safe haven and a platform for abortionists.
It has not only undermined their authority and credibility, but compromised ACOG’s very mission and identity.
* For Ob-Gyns like those at ACOG, “gestational age” refers to the number of weeks of pregnancy as measured from the woman’s last menstrual period, typically occurring two weeks before fertilization. This means that the gestational ages referred to here are two weeks more than the fetal age–the age of the unborn child from the time of his or her conception.