The nursing and PA communities were quick to react to the 6-3 ruling of the US Supreme Court in Dobbs v Jackson Women’s Health Organization, which overturned the longstanding Roe v Wade decision that legalized abortion.

The Dobbs ruling removes the right of all women to access high-quality health care and make personal decisions about their sexual and reproductive health care, said the American Nurses Association (ANA) in a press release. “In doing so, it potentially paves the way for laws that will fundamentally come between patients and health care professionals, including nurses, who must be guided by ethical obligations to their patients and the profession.” 

“ANA is deeply disappointed in the decision to upend Roe v Wade, which we view as a legal protection of basic reproductive health rights and human rights,” said ANA Enterprise CEO Loressa Cole, DNP, MBA, RN, FAAN, NEA-BC.


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AAPA Has Serious Concerns Over Abortion Ruling

In a separate announcement, the AAPA wrote: “AAPA has serious concerns about the impact of today’s decision intruding on the patient-PA relationship.”

The ANA and AAPA stated that their organizations will continue to advocate on behalf of patients. “We believe strongly in the importance of the patient-provider relationship, and that this relationship functions most effectively when patients are presented with all the relevant and necessary information to make shared decisions in their care,” the AAPA said.

The AAPA wrote that they would “uphold the privacy of the patient-provider relationship, and to ensure patients have access to services and information they need.” The ANA said: “Nurses have an ethical obligation to safeguard the right to privacy for individuals, families, and communities, allowing for decision making that is based on full information without coercion… [including assisting] their patients with weighing the benefits, burdens, and available options, including the choice of no treatment, when discussing sexual health issues and pregnancy.”

The AAPA’s position on reproductive health and access to care for all patients is based on their Guidelines for Ethical Conduct for the PA Profession:

  • Patients have a right to access the full range of reproductive health care services, including fertility treatments, contraception, sterilization, and abortion. PAs have an ethical obligation to provide balanced and unbiased clinical information about reproductive health care.
  • When the PA’s personal values conflict with providing full disclosure or providing certain services such as sterilization or abortion, the PA need not become involved in that aspect of the patient’s care. By referring the patient to a qualified provider who is willing to discuss and facilitate all treatment options, the PA fulfills their ethical obligation to ensure the patient’s access to all legal options.

In March 2022, the ANA affirmed that abortion is a reproductive health alternative that nurses can discuss when counseling patients. The association noted that “respect for patient decisions does not mean that the nurse must agree or support the decision. Nurses can exercise their right to refuse to participate in sexual and reproductive health care based on ethical grounds, as long as patient safety is assured and care by others has been arranged.” 

“No matter their philosophical differences or belief systems, all nurses must strive to remain consummate health care professionals and display empathy and respect to all,” said Dr Cole. “This is a complicated issue and deeply personal for all, including nurses. Nurses, leaders, all health care professionals, and the public must engage on this issue with empathy and respect.”  

Both organizations were adamant that health care providers not be subject to punitive or judicial processes for upholding their ethical obligations to their patients and profession.

Sources

AAPA statement on Supreme Court decision on Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization. News release. American Academy of PAs. June 24, 2022. Accessed June 28, 2022. https://www.aapa.org/news-central/2022/06/aapa-statement-on-supreme-court-decision/

US Supreme Court’s decision to overturn Roe vs. Wade: is a serious setback for reproductive health and human rights. News release. June 24, 2022. Accessed June 28, 2022. https://www.nursingworld.org/news/news-releases/2022-news-releases/us-supreme-courts-decision-to-overturn-roe-vs.-wade—-is-a-serious-setback-for-reproductive-health-and-human-rights/