OB/GYN referral guidelines stir controversy

New guidelines from the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists have stirred up controversy, with parties including the Bush Administration weighing in to complain that they may be inappropriate. Under the ACOG guidelines, OB/GYNs are required to make referrals to other doctors if patients want procedures they won't wish to perform themselves, notably abortions and emergency contraception. However, it's not clear whether a specialist could lose certification for refusing to make such referrals. Now, a war of words has erupted between pro-choice and pro-life physicians within the OB/GYN community over whether such standards are appropriate.

At this point, HHS Secretary Mike Leavitt has stepped in, sending a letter to both ACOG and the profession's certifying board, the American Board of Obstetrics and Gynecology. In his letter, Leavitt said that he was concerned that qualified OB/GYNs could lose their certification over refusing to do something they consider unethical. However, this may be a moot point, as federal law has protected physicians who don't want to perform abortions--or refer to others that do--since 2004.

To learn more about the controversy:
- read this NPR piece

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