On November 14, the Ohio Academy of Family Physicians submitted written testimony opposing Senate Bill (SB) 164, a bill that makes it a fourth degree felony for a physician to perform an abortion on a pregnant woman if the physician had any reason to believe the unborn child has Down syndrome.
The testimony, written by OAFP President Don Mack, MD, and OAFP Past President Sarah Sams, MD, was submitted to members of the Senate Health Committee for their consideration. Testimony focused on the bill’s negative impact and inappropriate intrusion into the patient-physician relationship and the fact that the bill undermines a patient’s ability to consult with her physician and criminalizes a physician for discussing a legal, safe, and appropriate health care service with their patients.
Earlier in November, the Ohio House of Representatives passed House Bill (HB) 214, a bill that is identical to SB 164. On October 11, OAFP President Dr. Mack and OAFP Past President Dr. Sams presented similar testimony before the House Health Committee in opposition to HB 214.
Coverage of OAFP testimony by Hannah News Service stated:
Dr. Mack said, “This legislation would potentially discourage and prohibit physicians from discussing a safe and legal health care service with their patients. This is an unprecedented level of legislative interference in the patient-physician relationship.”
Sams said, “HB 214 threatens to violate the sacred patient/physician bond by threatening the patient’s freedom to discuss all options with her physician. HB 214 will discourage patients from having honest conversations with their physicians, or from seeking counseling at all. HB 214 also threatens that patient’s ability to seek the legal medical care to which she is guaranteed.”
“HB 214,” said Dr. Sams, “makes a physician a criminal for providing legal medical services to their patients. If legislation encroaches on the legal practice of evidence-based medicine where will it stop? How will we encourage and keep bright young physicians in the state of Ohio, or even encourage young people to answer the call to this noble profession? The fear of loss of license and prosecution will surely discourage physicians from practicing in this state.”
The OAFP follows the American Academy of Family Physicians policy on the criminalization of medical practice which states “the AAFP takes all reasonable and necessary steps to ensure that medical decision-making and treatment, exercised in good faith, does not become a violation of criminal law”.
Both HB 214 and SB 164 are currently being considered by the Ohio Senate.