EAU CLAIRE, Mich. (ChurchMilitant.com) - An association of pro-life doctors has been the quiet voice calling out the dangers of abortion since before it was legalized.
The American Association of Pro-Life Obstetricians and Gynecologists (AAPLOG) has been working steadily to affect and rescind abortion laws in this country for over 45 years. Most people, doctors included, are unaware of the group and the work that they do to protect unborn babies and their mothers, as well as the rights of doctors. Church Militant spoke with Dr. Donna Harrison, the executive director of AAPLOG about the group's history and the work they've done.
"In 1972 when the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, ACOG, was involved in helping to pass Roe v. Wade and Doe v. Bolton, there were a number of physicians in ACOG leadership who were pro-life," Dr. Harrison explained. Prior to the 1970s, ACOG's policy on abortion was stated that abortions could only be performed in circumstances which endangered the mother's life, such as rheumatic heart disease and cardiac failure. However, once a small pro-abortion majority existed in ACOG leadership, ACOG helped to draft the wording of Doe v. Bolton, the Supreme Court decision that was issued on the same day as Roe v. Wade. Doe v. Bolton defined "health" so broadly that any reason whatsoever could be used to legally justify a "health" reason for abortion.
After Roe v. Wade was passed, ACOG's executive board voted to broaden "its support of the right of women to unhindered access to safe abortion services and opposes proposed legislation or a constitutional amendment limiting this access guaranteed to women."
Dr. Harrison said pro-life doctors realized that it was important to "maintain a pro-life voice within the ACOG." They formed AAPLOG as a non-profit group and as a "special interest group within the ACOG so that we could affect public policy" on abortion.
Dr. Harrison explained, "We exist to provide a professional medical second opinion to these issues." Their members "testify in court, file amicus briefs and are in the public policy arena," she said, noting that they also educate doctors about the effects of abortion on women. This association reviews the evidence found in the peer-reviewed medical literature and presents the scientific information to legislators.
The AAPLOG has directly opposed the stance of ACOG on a number of issues throughout their history. Abortion referrals, the partial-birth abortion ban and deregulation of the abortion pill, RU-486 or Mifeprex, to an over-the-counter drug are just some of the issues they provided contrary scientific evidence to. They challenged the FDA approval process of the abortion pill, documenting the "lax requirements of care " used during the trials. They also "continue to document and evaluate the reported adverse events and deaths associated with Mifeprex use" showcasing the dangers of the chemical.
The AAPLOG is also fighting for protecting the rights of doctors. Since 1996, a number of attempts have been made to force pro-life doctors to refer their patients for abortion services. "AAPLOG vigorously objected to this attempt to use federal legislation to force pro-life doctors to violate their conscience by requiring them to be complicit in the abortion procedure in this way," in this way," Dr. Harrison said. They continue to support the rights of doctors by organizing support for an additional amicus brief in 2015.
Dr. Harrison noted that over time ACOG leadership has become more and more pro-abortion. In December, the ACOG published a position statement advocating for the decriminalization of self-induced abortion. The group states that they have "long opposed efforts to criminalize" using drugs during pregnancy, attempting suicide or declining to proceed with a cesarean delivery in a woman's attempt to end her own pregnancy. They claim prohibitive costs and "growing restrictions on abortion access and the closure of facilities providing this service and self-induced abortion attempts may become more common."
On January 18, ACOG and Physicians for Reproductive Health blasted the Trump administration's creation of conscience protections, stating, "No individual, employer, politician or entity should be given legal cover to deny a patient-needed medical care." Continuing, they say, "Abortion, contraception and sterilization are a part of comprehensive reproductive health care and are essential to the health of patients."
In contrast, AAPLOG physicians clearly maintain that elective abortion is never necessary to save the life of any woman, and in fact, elective abortion hurts women by increasing their risk of suicide, drug abuse, depression, preterm birth and in the case of abortions before having other children, increases a woman's risk of breast cancer.
These direct assaults on physicians' and healthcare workers' rights are leaving many of them to feel alone in their fight. She explained that their organization is not well known, and "we don't have a loud enough voice yet to get our message out there," but said, "when doctors who are pro-life hear we exist, they join us."
"We have been growing quite steadily and were the largest group within the ACOG until 2013 when ACOG discontinued it's special interest groups altogether," Dr. Harrison said. She explained that it was ultimately a good thing as they "were free then to admit doctors of other specialties who are also involved in reproductive health care, as well as midwives, physician's assistants and nurses — any medical professional involved in reproductive health care."
"We're here to help connect patients who want a faithful doctor with doctors who are willing to practice by the Hippocratic Oath," she said. Harrison told Church Militant the AAPLOG has developed a directory of pro-life doctors that is searchable for people to find pro-life health care. She apologized that right now the directory is in transition and being updated but is hopeful that the directory will be complete by March.
She explained that not all of the doctors follow the Church's teachings on contraception but said many of the doctors don't prescribe contraceptives. She said they are working toward an information bulletin about the current research on the effects of hormonal contraception on embryos. "For many physicians, understanding the effect of a contraceptive on embryos will affect the willingness to prescribe that particular contraceptive."