When Politics Trumps Good Medical Practice

The purposes of professional medical associations are to set standards of medical practice for their members, to support members in the practice of medicine, as well as to serve as a voice for their members in the formulation of health care policy. Each of these focus areas should be grounded in sound science and strong medical ethics. Unfortunately, the current medical climate undercuts these principles as more and more policy recommendations seek to advance a political agenda instead of good medicine.

This is exemplified by two recent policy statements from the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP). In a recent Truth & Charity Forum article, Dr. Donald DeMarco already highlighted the AAP’s position that essentially normalizes homosexuality and discourages any attempt to help homosexual youth live chastely. The AAP has taken a similarly radical position with regards to emergency contraception.

In a policy statement published in December 2012, the AAP advocates for universal access to emergency contraception, also known as the morning-after pill, at no cost to the patient and without regard to the patient’s age or family values. The policy also explicitly rejects any allowances for conscience protections for physicians who find the use of emergency contraception morally objectionable.

The stated motivation for this policy is the intent to lower the rate of teen pregnancy. However, the AAP admits in its official statement that no studies have documented a decreased incidence of teen pregnancy when emergency contraception is made easily available. With no scientific evidence to justify these recommendations, the AAP still charges ahead with utter disregard for both the conscience rights of physicians and the rights of parents to set moral and ethical standards for their children.

The AAP specifically encourages the ready access to Plan B, a progesterone only form of emergency contraception, because it is well tolerated and has no medical contraindications to its use. They do admit that one of the mechanisms of action of Plan B is to alter the endometrial lining of the uterus so that the newly formed zygote cannot implant.

The AAP claims that because implantation never occurs, Plan B cannot be considered abortion inducing. This is nothing more than an exercise in semantic gymnastics. It is a scientific fact that the zygote is a new human life formed at the moment of conception. Plan B causes this new life to be aborted by preventing implantation, therefore, it is most definitely an abortion-inducing agent.

In spite of recent polls showing that most Americans oppose abortion, the AAP policy makes no allowances for any possible moral objections to the use of Plan B. By insisting that emergency contraception be available without a prescription and at no cost to patients, the AAP seeks to circumvent any parental involvement or objections and undermines parental authority.

It is equally disturbing that the AAP rejects any attempt to regulate access to emergency contraception based on the age of the patient. The current AAP policy supports New York mayoral candidate Christine Quinn’s push to make emergency contraception available to girls as young as eleven years old.

Think about that.

Girls who are eleven are not old enough to give legal consent for sex. If they need emergency contraception it is because they have been sexually abused and raped. Do we really want to enable the cover-up of these crimes by handing out emergency contraception to these girls with no questions asked?

If parents told their diabetic preteen daughter she was on her own to figure out how to manage her disease, most pediatricians would consider it grossly negligent and report such parents to Child Protective Services. Yet the AAP views parental involvement in the sexual health of children not only as unnecessary but as unwelcome. Why is it that the AAP has no problem with preventing young girls from getting their ears pierced or their skin tattooed without parental consent, but when it comes to matters involving sex they think an eleven-year-old girl is mature enough to make the right decision?

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Clearly, the AAP is so focused on promoting a liberal sexual agenda that it is indifferent to the damage this policy can do to children and their families. This disregard also extends to AAP physician members who find incorporating emergency contraception into their practice morally objectionable. The AAP rejects any limitation of a physician’s scope of practice based on principles of conscience. The policy statement says:

According to the policy, pediatricians have a duty to inform their patients about relevant, legally available treatment options to which they object and have a moral obligation to refer patients to other physicians who will provide and educate about those services. Failure to inform/educate about availability and access to emergency-contraception services violates this duty to their adolescent and young adult patients.

The AAP has effectively adopted a policy that says legality trumps morality.

Physicians, parents, and policy makers can no longer rely on the AAP to have the physical, emotional, and spiritual welfare of children at the heart of its work. As unquestionably demonstrated by its recent statements on the care of homosexual youth and the promotion of unlimited emergency contraception, the American Academy of Pediatrics has evolved from an association supporting optimal health for children to an organization advocating for a political ideology that promotes promiscuity, weakens families, and tramples religious liberty.

Dr. Denise Jackson Hunnell is a Fellow of Human Life International. She graduated from Rice University with a BA in biochemistry and psychology. She earned her medical degree from The University of Texas Southwestern Medical School. She went on to complete a residency in family medicine at Marquette General Hospital, Marquette, Michigan. Upon completion of her training, Dr. Hunnell served as a family physician in the United States Air Force. She was honorably discharged. She continued to practice medicine all over the country as her husband’s Air Force career kept them on the move. In order to better care for her family, Dr. Hunnell retired from active clinical practice and focused her professional efforts on writing and teaching. She has contributed work to local and national Catholic publications as well as to secular newspapers including the Washington Post and the Washington Times. She also teaches anatomy and physiology at Northern Virginia Community College Woodbridge Campus. Dr. Hunnell serves as an elected member of the Board of Directors for the Fellowship of Catholic Scholars. Other affiliations include the American Academy of Family Physicians, The Catholic Medical Association, and the National Catholic Bioethics Center. She received her certification in health care ethics from the National Catholic Bioethics Center in 2009. Dr. Hunnell has been married for nearly thirty years to Colonel (ret) John F. Hunnell, an Air Force test pilot. They have four children and are blessed with three grandchildren so far.
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