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Abortion Bans, Doctors, and the Criminalization of Patients

January 2018, the American Col­lege of Obstetrics and Gynecology issued a position statement oppos­ing the punishment of women for self-induced abortion. To those unfamiliar with emerging trends in abortion in the United States and worldwide, the need for the declaration might not be apparent. Several studies suggest that self-induced abortion is on the rise in the United States. Simultaneously, prosecutions of pregnant women for behavior thought to harm the fetus are increasing. The ACOG statement re­sponds to both trends by urging doctors to honor the integrity and confidential­ity inherent in the doctor-patient rela­tionship. 

Seen in the context of the larger battle over legal abortion, the state­ment has far broader implications. By acknowledging the role doctors play in enforcing pregnancy-related crimes, the ACOG position statement wisely antic­ipates the ways in which doctors will be implicated should access to legal abor­tion be further restricted. To understand the need for the ACOG directive, you must first under­stand that the story of what will hap­pen if abortion becomes a crime in the United States is not to be found in his­tory books; it is staring at us across our southern border.

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