There are few issues in our country that are more personal than abortion. Regardless of your individual stance, the impending ruling of the Supreme Court of the United States (SCOTUS) will create a great deal of consternation and confusion not only for North Carolina’s family physicians but all Americans. It will take a significant amount of time and legal hand wringing to fully comprehend the implications and how it will impact patient care. Regardless of the outcome, we feel confident that family physicians across the country and across our state will continue to remain laser focused on the most important element of the equation – their patients’ health.
The immediate impact of a decision to strike down the landmark Roe v. Wade decision would be to end a half-century guarantee of federal constitutional protection of abortion rights and allow each state to decide whether to restrict or ban abortion. Because our state does not have legislation on the books that would “trigger” an immediate change should Roe V. Wade be overturned, the North Carolina General Assembly will have to act for any change to occur, which is unlikely to happen this year. As a result, we do not anticipate any immediate impact on reproductive rights in our state.
A primary guiding principle of the North Carolina Academy of Family Physicians' (NCAFP) has been, and continues to be, that physicians must be able to practice medicine directed by their years of medical education, training, experience, and best available evidence, freely and without threat of punishment, harassment, or retribution. Additionally, patients must be able to depend on their physicians to help them make critical decisions about their personal health, including reproductive health.
To reiterate a previous statement by AAFP, we stand “firmly against any policies that unnecessarily regulate the evidence-based practice of medicine, criminalize physicians and medical care, threaten the patient-physician relationship, and inhibit the delivery of safe, timely, and comprehensive care, including reproductive health services and information.” Our patients, not policymakers, must make their own medical decisions.
As our nation, state and profession continue to navigate this and many other ethical and social dilemmas, the NCAFP will be working with the AAFP and other partners to develop practice resources to assist members in avoiding legal pitfalls, counseling their patients, and addressing health equity concerns. The NCAFP remains committed to eliminating health disparities regardless of the outcome of this decision.
One thing that should be abundantly clear, and I think we will all agree: this decision should be a wake-up call to our state leaders and Legislature that they, now more than ever, have a moral imperative to strengthen North Carolina’s social safety net, invest in families and expand health insurance coverage in our state.
Thursday, June 23, 2022