Some in the medical community are worried that when the five conservative Supreme Court Justices ruled in favor of the Green family in the Hobby Lobby case on Monday, it may have been akin to Pandora opening her box. Let’s hope that this time hope had time to escape along with all of the evil and ills.
The Greens based their opposition to four methods of birth control that they insist are abortifacients although the medical community has repeatedly denied this to be the case. In the current medical definition of abortion, a pregnancy does not begin until implantation of the fertilized ovum in the uterine wall. It is this refusal to accept medical facts coupled with the ruling that some may be exempted from provisions of the ACA based on “sincere religious beliefs” that has some in the medical community concerned.
The ruling has been criticized by the American Medical Association (AMA), the American Nurses Association (ANA) and the American Academy of Family Physicians (AAFP) for various reasons, not the least of which is the fact that the Court seemed to be uninterested in what the medical facts were basing their opinion entirely on “religious beliefs.”
Reid Blackwelder, MD, president of the AAFP worried that with their foot in the door employers might cite religious convictions to deny other medical procedures and treatments regardless of the medical necessity.
“We have a precedent where someone can come forward and say vaccines are against their belief system,” Dr. Blackwelder told Medscape Medical News.
Alito said in his majority opinion that this sort of thing can’t happen because this was a narrow decision and only applied to contraceptives and the Plaintiffs in this case only. Of course we found out how much his assurances meant on Tuesday when the Court vacated decisions in two cases ordering the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals to rehear them with the Hobby Lobby ruling in mind. Those cases are from Catholic business owners who object to all contraception, not just the four that Hobby Lobby and Conestoga Wood opposed.
David Fleming, MD, president of the American College of Physicians (ACP) is skeptical of taking Alito’s word for it.
“The ruling clearly does not preclude for-profit employers from challenge such [ACA] mandates, or the courts from granting further coverage exemptions,” Fleming said in a news release. “Rather, it seems likely that the Supreme Court’s decision will open the door for more for-profit employers to seek [religious] exemptions.”
The ruling in this case “intrudes on the patient-physician relationship,” according to a statement from AMA President Dr. Robert Wah, a sentiment shared by Dr. Blackwelder who said that the choice of treatments, contraceptives and medications should by decided between the patient and the doctor and that “insurance should cover the right choice.”
The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG) has weighed in issuing a news release from president Dr. John Jennings:
“[It] inappropriately allows employers to interfere in women’s healthcare decisions.
[Abortifacient] has a precise meaning in the medical and scientific community and it refers to the termination of a pregnancy,” the groups wrote. “Contraceptives that prevent fertilization from occurring, or even prevent implantation, are simply not abortifacients regardless of an individual’s personal or religious beliefs or mores.”
In fairness there are others in the medical community who feel the Court made the right decision. In a statement the Catholic Medical Association said that the Court had “curtailed the Obama administration’s abuse of executive power and unprecedented attacks on religious liberty.”
h/t: Daily Kos