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AMA against disclosing possibility of abortion via birth control pills

WASHINGTON (BP)–The American Medical Association has voted overwhelmingly against a proposal to inform women about the potential for birth control pills to cause the abortion of a fertilized egg, CNSNews.com reported Dec. 7.

“If [pro-life women] are using a method that can operate after fertilization as well as before fertilization, and they don’t know it, they are basically being deceived by lack of information into violating their own consciences,” said Walter Weber, senior litigation counsel for the American Center for Law and Justice, a Virginia-based public interest law firm.

Weber criticized the AMA for voting against a proposal during its December annual meeting that would have urged physicians to inform women about that possibility. He believes some AMA members opposed the measure because they are, to varying degrees, pro-abortion, while others were simply skeptical and perhaps uninformed about the issue.

“The strongest argument against [the proposal] is to say that the evidence is unclear to what extent, if at all, certain methods of birth control can operate as abortifacients,” a substance or device used to induce abortion, Weber said.

“That’s legitimate medical research, scientific debate,” Weber said. “The question comes down to whether we want to let women know about it, so they can decide whether it’s important or not.”

The AMA has strong policies on informed consent, giving patients information about the risks associated with medical procedures and drugs, Weber noted. “So it would have been very consistent with that to adopt this policy.

“For them to reject this is really for them to say that, ‘We’re going to make an exception for abortifacients. We think patients have the right to know about procedures in general but not when it comes to abortions, at least in the early stages of pregnancy,'” Weber alleged.

According to some sources, common birth control devices and pills — like estrogen/progestin birth control bills, Intra-uterine Devices (IUDs), Norplant, and Depo-Provera — can cause the abortion of fertilized eggs. Some suggest that these methods may not only work by preventing contraception but, sometimes, by preventing the implantation of an egg that’s been fertilized, effectively killing it.

John C. Nelson, a member of the AMA’s executive committee and a self-described conservative, said the Alabama doctor who put forward the proposal before the AMA “believes that in the spirit of enhancing the patient/physician relationship, that information ought to be disclosed to patients to help them make choices.

I couldn’t agree more,” Nelson said. “That’s exactly what the AMA is about. It’s a cornerstone of American medicine.”

However, the proposal was voted down because “many people from the American Society of Reproductive Medicine … decided that they would testify, and their testimony was that there is not sufficient scientific evidence to suggest” that birth control substances can induce abortions,” Nelson recounted.

“One of the foremost infertility doctors in the country [said] that’s not the way it works,” Nelson said. “I have no reason to doubt him.”

Weber suggested the proposal might be brought up again at the 2002 AMA meeting.
Hall is a staff writer with www.CNSNews.com. Used by permission.

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  • Christine Hall