“…medicine’s most fundamental element remains the relationship between patient and physician. This relationship at the heart of health care has been a constant across cultures and centuries and…must remain central to medical practice” (John Noseworthy, MD).
As family physicians who take care of patients across the lifespan, we understand the importance of the patient-physician relationship and its role in a patient’s health and outcomes. Our job is not to tell patients what to do; we support and guide them as they make the best decisions for themselves and their families. The recent leak of an opinion statement from the U.S. Supreme Court threatens that very relationship, and thus, the health of our patients.
This week, the U.S. Senate is expected to vote on the Women’s Health Protection Act, which would “prohibit inappropriate restrictions in medicine, protect the patient-physician relationship, prevent the criminalization of abortion and keep politics out of our exam rooms” (AAFP). This legislation passed the House of Representatives earlier this year, but it failed in the Senate.
We need to let lawmakers know, loudly and clearly, that medical decisions belong in the exam room, between a patient and physician—and there should be no government interference. It’s imperative that the Women’s Health Protection Act get passed to protect patients and the patient-physician relationship.
Take Action: Support the Women’s Health Protection Act
Use the AAFP Speak Out tool to contact your Senators and ask them to support the Women’s Health Protection Act.
Additional Five-minute Action Ideas:
- Read abortion stories to work to destigmatize abortion.
- Get educated about how local abortion bans are criminalizing people and creating a culture of fear, disproportionately harming those who already face systemic racism and discrimination that block access to care (including Latinas, Black women and other people of color) and for whom the decision would only make things worse (see example from Texas).
- Find out who represents you and reach out to let them know you want them to protect abortion rights and reproductive health care access.
Where Does the Academy Stand on Reproductive Health Care Access?
In 2019, the Minnesota Academy of Family Physicians (MAFP) House of Delegates adopted a resolution that states, “BE IT RESOLVED that the MAFP will oppose any future efforts in Minnesota to criminalize physicians for providing abortion care.” View the resolution.
The American Academy of Family Physicians (AAFP) has long opposed ANY legislation or regulation that interferes in the confidential relationship between a patient and physician: “The AAFP is committed to protecting the patient-physician relationship and preserving the ability of physicians to provide evidence-based care to their patients. Reproductive health care is no exception.” Read “Family Physicians Stand Against Policies That Criminalize Care, Threaten Patient-Physician Relationship” and “Leading Physician Groups Oppose Legislation That Threatens Access to Reproductive Patient Care.”
What Does Abortion Care & Access Look Like in MN?
It’s important to note that abortion is still legal in the United States and in Minnesota, and clinics are still providing patients with compassionate, expert abortion care and family planning services. If Roe v. Wade were overturned, Minnesota has state constitutional protections for abortion care in place because of the State Supreme Court decision in Doe v. Gomez.
“Nevertheless, [lawmakers] need to hear our voices! While the current state government is not set up to pass any further restrictions on abortion and our current legislative champions in the Reproductive Freedom Caucus and Governor Walz are committed to protecting abortion access, we still have MANY barriers for patients, and more could come.” –Nicole Chaisson, MD, MPH, MAFP leader and Associate Medical Director at Planned Parenthood North Central States
The UnRestrict MN campaign is part of a current lawsuit trying to remove burdensome laws in Minnesota that are designed to shame and stigmatize abortion providers and those that seek abortion care, such as those that require state-mandated consent language (some that is not medically accurate) and a required 24-hour waiting period or those that determine who can provide abortion care (Minnesota is a state in which only physicians can perform abortions). See a full list of these laws.
Consider joining the Minnesota RHAP (Reproductive Health Access Project) Cluster, a partner organization within UnRestrict MN, if you’d like to be part of statewide networking with reproductive justice advocates working to ensure that abortion is safe, legal and accessible; fertility care, pregnancy care and safe childbirth are realities for everyone who chooses to have children; and we all live in safe, supportive communities.
Reproductive Health Care Resources
In March 2022, the MAFP hosted an “Access to Reproductive Health Care” discussion for medical students and residents to outline what reproductive health access looks like on the ground in Minnesota, what the role of family medicine is in preserving access to comprehensive reproductive health care and what training options are available to medical students and residents. See slides from the discussion.
More resources on reproductive health care follow.
- Abortion Training Roadmap (for medical students and residents)
- Midwest Access Project
- Reproductive Health Access Project
- Reproductive Health Education in Family Medicine (RHEDI)
- Early Abortion Training Curriculum (TEACH)
- Access, Delivered: A Toolkit for Medication Abortion (University of Washington)
- Innovating Education in Reproductive Health
Policy, Research & Reproductive Justice
- Center for Reproductive Rights
- Guttmacher Institute
- Sister Song
- Unite for Reproductive & Gender Equity (URGE)
- UnRestrict Minnesota