ACOG drops 2023 meeting in New Orleans over abortion concerns

The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG) has dropped plans to hold its 2023 annual clinical and scientific meeting in New Orleans, saying it cannot meet somewhere where its members could be punished for having provided or even discussed abortion care.

The nation’s largest OB-GYN group said it hopes other medical organizations will follow suit by refraining from holding events in states with restrictive abortion laws.

The 2023 ACOG Annual Clinical and Scientific Meeting will not be held in Louisiana

Next year ACOG will relocate the Annual Clinical and Scientific Meeting from New Orleans, Louisiana, to a state with a legislative climate consistent with our values. Hosting the largest gathering of obstetrician-gynecologists in the nation in a place where providing evidence-based care is prohibited or subject to criminal or other penalties is directly contrary to our mission and values.

Our annual meetings are a source of learning, fellowship, community and strength. It is important that our flagship national assembly be held in a place that shares our values, protects our members in the performance of their duties and provides patients with full access to reproductive health care. We look forward to announcing our new location whose laws allow our members to provide and our patients to receive evidence-based care without fear of criminal prosecution or other penalties.

— ACOG Statement to Members

Louisiana is among 13 states with trigger laws that would ban abortion if the U.S. Supreme Court overturns Roe v. Wade, which is expected based on a draft majority opinion leaked earlier this month. Conservative state lawmakers have pushed a bill that would allow women who obtain abortions and doctors who perform them to be charged with murder. Opponents of the proposal – which is currently in legislative limbo – said the proposed bill would also ban in vitro fertilization, intrauterine birth control devices and emergency contraception.

Some other states that are popular sites for medical conventions, such as Georgia and Texas, severely restrict access to the procedure.

“Holding the nation’s largest gathering of obstetrician-gynecologists in a location where the provision of evidence-based care is prohibited or subject to criminal or other penalties is directly at odds with our mission and our values,” he said. ‘ACOG in the May 13 edition of its monthly electronic newsletter, ACOG Rounds, in which the decision was announced. The decision was first reported on NOLA.com.

The Washington, DC-based company said it will move the conference, which was scheduled for next April, to a location where public policy is more in line with its values. ACOG said it drew more than 4,000 people to its 2022 conference this month in San Diego, Calif.

Louisiana has a long history of restricting abortion, according to the Guttmacher Institute, which considered it one of the most “unfriendly” states to abortion in a 2020 analysis, with measures such as as mandatory pre-abortion counselling, onerous clinical regulations and waiting times. The state trigger law has been on the books since 2006.

Molly Meegan, Legal Director and General Counsel of ACOG, said Medscape Medical News that ACOG’s decision to move the conference was made in response to the anticipated removal of federal protections granted by Deer. She said ACOG members need the ability to “present, discuss and educate” in a place where they will be “safe from personal attack or legal action.”

It’s time to “speak, live and act our values”

The uncertain legal ramifications of openly discussing abortion at a conference “could seem threatening” to some physicians, said Sarah W. Prager, MD, professor of obstetrics and gynecology at the University of Washington, Seattle. Medscape. Prager, co-chair of ACOG’s Abortion Advocacy and Education Task Force, said proposed legislation in some states would target clinicians in other states who offer abortions to their residents.

“The legal landscape has changed and our nation’s reproductive health crisis is worse than ever,” Meegan said, adding that it’s “time for us to speak up, live and act on our values.”

Meegan said ACOG hopes the relocation will “make a clear statement that there are consequences” for enacting abortion restrictions and that “other members of the medical community will join us and demonstrate.” common opposition” to legislative interference in medical care.

So far, however, other medical organizations have not announced their intention to refrain from holding events in states that severely restrict abortion.

Kelly Schulz, spokeswoman for New Orleans & Company, a marketing and sales organization for the city’s tourism industry, said medical landscape that he was disappointed with ACOG’s withdrawal, noting that the conventions put tens of thousands of New Orleans to work. But she said she was unaware of other medical groups pulling out.

Medical conferences are typically planned years in advance and involve significant financial commitments with event planners and convention centers. Breaking these contracts can be costly, according to officials at some organizations.

Several groups that signed an ACOG amicus brief in 2021 opposing a Mississippi law at the center of the current Supreme Court case have meetings scheduled in states with trigger laws and other restrictive policies. . Three of them said medical landscape they have no intention of swapping places.

Ryan Mire, MD, president of the American College of Physicians, said the internal medicine group has not reconsidered plans to hold its 2025 annual meeting in New Orleans.

Mire said that “boycotting a meeting place eliminates an opportunity to engage, to make our point of view heard and to address different points of view”, adding that it “can be detrimental to people employed in the service sector. services, many whose livelihoods could be endangered and are not responsible for actions taken by government officials and lawmakers.”

Nonetheless, Mire said “decisions made by other organizations should be respected” and that his group “may consider state-level issues when planning future meetings.”

The National Association of Nurse Practitioners in Women’s Health issued a statement to members March 10, saying it was “sensitive” to concerns about holding its first women’s health conference in Houston this fall, given a Texas law prohibiting abortion as early as 6 weeks. Texas also has a trigger law.

Still, the organization said it would stay with Houston, explaining that it had renegotiated a contract, originally signed in 2019, to “minimize the financial impact” of canceling its 2021 and 2022 in-person meetings during the COVID-19 pandemic. He added that educating the state’s large population of nurse practitioners is “vitally important to the health and safety of Texas women, pregnant women and children.”

The American Psychiatric Association, which will hold its annual meeting in New Orleans beginning May 21, said medical landscape in a statement that it “considers whether a venue has laws contrary to its policies that negatively impact mental health.”

The association said several of its members raised concerns about the Louisiana legislation that came after planning began for its 2022 meeting and after the organization assumed contractual obligations that could not be undone. This may have been a reference to the bill that would have made abortion a homicide. The association did not return a request for clarification on time.

Other events scheduled in states with strict abortion laws are the American Society for Reproductive Medicine 2023 Scientific Congress & Expo (New Orleans), the National Medical Association 2022 Annual Convention and Scientific Assembly (Atlanta), and the Society of OB/GYN Hospitalists 2022 Annual Clinical Meeting (San Antonio, Texas).

Attempts to contact these organizations for comment were unsuccessful.

Mary Chris Jaklevic is a medical journalist in the Midwest.

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