Report Details Political Interference in Health Care, Calls for Change

October 15, 2015 — A group of health and safety experts in a report released on Wednesday urged policymakers to reject or repeal legislation that interferes with health care providers' ability to provide evidence-based care, Politico Pro reports (Ehley, Politico Pro, 10/14).

Report Details

The report, "Politics in the Exam Room: A Growing Threat," was produced by the Law Center to Prevent Gun Violence, the National Partnership for Women & Families, the National Physicians Alliance and the Natural Resources Defense Council (National Partnership for Women & Families release, 10/14). The report examines how politics has influenced health care in clinical management of toxic exposure, gun safety and reproductive health ("Politics in the Exam Room," 10/14).

The report urges lawmakers to "reject or repeal" legislation that intrudes on the relationship between patients and providers, or that requires providers to violate medical best practices or ethical standards. It also calls on "the medical community, patients and advocates" to express their opposition to such measures and recommends that lawmakers advance legislation to protect the patient-provider relationship (National Partnership for Women & Families release, 10/14).

According to the report, "The government has an important role to play in regulating the medical profession, but when those regulations do not comport with medical standards and/or when they directly interfere in the patient-provider relationship and undermine patient-centered care, lawmakers have abused their authority."

Key Notes on Reproductive Health

The report notes that states have passed a "record number of abortion restrictions" in recent years, which "interfer[e] in the relationship between women and their health care providers and inhibi[t] women's ability to make personal medical decisions." According to the report, "These laws are not evidence-based, and they disregard both patients' needs and health care providers' professional judgment and ethical obligations."

The report outlines several types of these restrictions, such as laws "requiring abortion providers to give patients misinformation about health risks; mandating that providers perform ultrasounds and describe and display the images; forcing providers to delay time-sensitive care; and banning the use of the prevailing evidence-based regimen for medication abortion and the provision of medication abortion via telemedicine." Additional abortion restrictions that "intrude in the exam room and undermine women's health care" include admitting privileges requirements and requirements that abortion clinics meet medically unnecessary ambulatory surgical center standards.

The report assesses each of these types of laws. For example, in terms of medical misinformation laws, the report found that 12 states have laws requiring providers to recite medically unproven claims that a fetus can feel pain; nine states require that women hear claims focusing on negative emotional reactions to abortion; four states have laws requiring incorrect statements about how abortion could affect fertility; five states have laws requiring false claims about links between abortion and breast cancer; and two states require medically unfounded claims that medication abortion can be reversed.

"While there have been some notable court victories, abortion restrictions that interfere with the relationship between a patient and health care provider are in litigation across the country and remain in effect in many places," according to the report. Further, the report notes, lawmakers in the first quarter of 2015 have proposed more than 300 antiabortion-rights measures. "These ongoing efforts to impose politics on the practice of medicine undermine patients' rights and providers' ability to fulfill their professional and ethical obligations," the report states ("Politics in the Exam Room," 10/14).


National Partnership for Women & Families President Debra Ness said, "Quality health care must be based on evidence," adding, "Laws that put the words of politicians into the mouths of health care providers or mandate medically unnecessary procedures are outrageous and costly in every way."

Further, noting that states have adopted more than 280 abortion restrictions in the last five years, Ness said, "This kind of ideological encroachment on medical care must end. Women deserve ready access to high-quality, evidence-based health care, free of politics and ideology. It's past time that politicians exit the exam room."

NPA Executive Director Jean Silver-Isenstadt said, "States are passing laws that put providers in the impossible position of having to choose between adhering to their professional and ethical standards or abiding by restrictions that are driven by political ideology," adding, "When laws and regulations make it impossible to follow widely accepted medical standards, something is terribly wrong" (National Partnership for Women & Families release, 10/14).