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Op-Ed Calls For an End to Patient-Provider Interference Laws, Citing New Report

Op-Ed Calls For an End to Patient-Provider Interference Laws, Citing New Report

October 21, 2015 — In recent years, state lawmakers "have repeatedly inserted themselves into exam rooms," Catherine Rampell writes in a Washington Post opinion piece, citing a recent report from the National Partnership for Women & Families, the National Physicians Alliance, the Natural Resources Defense Council, and the Law Center to Prevent Gun Violence that "outlines some of the innovative ways in which politicians are ... 'playing doctor.'"

Rampell notes that, according to the report, one of the ways in which "states are trying to politicize medicine involves forcing doctors to endorse junk science." For example, she points out that doctors in both Texas and Kansas are mandated "to instruct patients that having an abortion will increase their risk of breast cancer, a contention that's been rejected by the World Health Organization, the American Cancer Society and other major health groups."

Meanwhile, Arizona and Arkansas "require physicians to tell women that [medication] abortions may be 'reversible,'" Rampell writes, adding that "reputable organizations such as the American College of Obstetrics and Gynecology say this claim is unsupported by scientific evidence."

In addition, "policymakers have politicized the exam room" by "intervening in the provision of care itself" through measures that "require medically unnecessary procedures (ultrasounds before abortions, for example) or delay medically appropriate ones," Rampell writes. According to Rampell, "A growing number of states have instituted mandatory waiting periods for abortion," including South Dakota, where the 72-hour mandatory delay (HB 1237) "does not count weekends and state holidays ... meaning that a patient could have to wait as long as six days."

Rampell concludes that while "there obviously is a role for policymakers to play in setting laws that promote public health ... laws should be grounded in scientific evidence, not attempts to reward campaign donors, appease the political base and shame women" (Rampell, Washington Post, 10/19).