Perspective on the Rights of a Fetus

ACOG has clearly come out against home birthing and last year made a formal statement that the safest place for giving birth is the hospital or a birthing center attached to a hospital. In a recent Today show interview, ACOG spokesperson, Dr. Erin Tracy, stated that in rare circumstances a home birth can go awry resulting in injury or death to the fetus and used this reasoning to argue against supporting a woman's right to informed consent and choice. So, my understanding from this is that ACOG has deep concern over the rights of the unborn baby and puts those rights above the mother's.

In July of 2007, ACOG reaffirmed their statement of policy regarding abortion. Paragraph #3 states: "Termination of pregnancy before viability is a medical matter between the patient and physician, subject to the physician's clinical judgement, the patient's informed consent and the availability of appropriate facilities."

Paragraph #5 states: "Informed consent is an expression of respect for the patient as a person. It particularly respects a patient's moral right to bodily integrity, to self-determination regarding sexuality and reproductive capacities, and to the support of the patient's freedom within caring relationships. A pregnant woman should be fully informed in a balanced manner about all options.....The professional should make every effort to avoid introducing personal bias."

"The College continues to affirm the legal right of a woman to obtain an abortion prior to fetal viability. ACOG is opposed to abortion of the healthy fetus that has attained viability in a healthy woman (Dilitation and Extraction or late term abortion). Viability is the capacity of the fetus to survive outside the mother's uterus." Although against this procedure, they do acknowledge that a late term abortion may be the most appropriate procedure in a particular circumstance to save the life or preserve the health of a woman and only the doctor, in consultation with the patient, can make this decision. ACOG also states that a select panel they convened could identify no circumstances under which this procedure would be the only option to save the life or preserve the health of the woman.

I was sort of confused by this last paragraph so don't feel bad if you have to reread it, too. Anyway, their statement of policy on abortion concludes in bold print: "The intervention of legislative bodies into medical decision making is inappropriate, ill advised, and dangerous."

So, realizing that I am editorializing here a bit let me see. Hmmmm, they are on a lobbying campaign to discourage or eliminate a woman's choice of home birth because it can very rarely cause damage to a fetus but they are against legislation to prevent a woman's choice of a late term abortion which kills viable fetuses. Am I missing something here? Am I comparing apples to apples? Is this an amazing bit of ACOG hypocrisy? Please comment as I would love clarity here. Thanks, Dr. F