Don’t Gag Doctors, Says TMA President

For Immediate Release
Aug. 6, 2012  

Contact: Pam Udall
phone: (512) 370-1382
cell: (512) 413-6807  

Brent Annear
phone: (512) 370-1381
cell: (512) 656-7320

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Don’t gag doctors. That’s the heart of a letter from the Texas Medical Association (TMA) to the Department of State Health Services (DSHS). TMA President Michael E. Speer, MD, points out DSHS’s proposed rules would impose a “gag order” on physicians who participate in the Texas Women’s Health Program (TWHP), barring them from discussing elective abortion with their patients even if the patient asked about it or if the standard of care indicated it should be discussed as an option.

“If the state indeed wants doctors to participate in the program, this is a step in the opposite direction,” added Dr. Speer. Many Texas physicians may leave the program because these rules, if enacted, would force them to choose between practicing medicine in accordance with the standard of care and medical ethics, or in accordance with a rule created to serve a political ideology.

Co-signing the letter with TMA were the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists/Texas District, Texas Association of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, Texas Academy of Family Physicians, and Texas Pediatric Society.

"Whether the issue is guns, smoking, illicit drugs, abortion, or any other controversial issue, the politics du jour should not interfere with the patient-physician relationship. The relationship between patient and physician is based on trust and creates the physician’s ethical obligations to place the patient’s welfare above his or her own personal politics, self-interest and above obligations to other groups," the letter stated, referencing the American Medical Association's Code of Medical Ethics.

TMA is the largest state medical society in the nation, representing nearly 46,000 physician and medical student members. It is located in Austin and has 120 component county medical societies around the state. TMA’s key objective since 1853 is to improve the health of all Texans.

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    As a medical student, I am shocked that this is even being discussed. I did not know that by getting into medical school I was signing away my right to give my patients accurate information about their health care options. As a woman, I'm outraged. I can't believe that our state is denying us information about our own bodies in order to limit our reproductive choices.

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    I do not like this!
    Our Texas Medical Association is playing politics - abortion politics - by falsely claiming that Texas law "gags" any of us.
    Trust me, the protest is all about abortion. The laws passed by the Legislature in 2011 don't stop any of us from discussing or even promoting true contraception that doesn’t end the life of our youngest children of tomorrow.
    And it is about “elective abortions:” those that are performed on health babies in healthy mothers. We’re not talking about the more controversial abortions in cases of rape and incest, much less in the cases of congenital disorders that are “not compatible with life outside the womb" and certainly not in cases where the mother’s life is in danger. SB 7 specifically exempted these abortions from the law in order to be passed.
    How difficult is it to understand that Texas taxpayers should not pay for “promotion” of abortion? Or that we most certainly do not want our State tax funds to go to doctors who perform elective abortions on healthy babies and healthy mothers?

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