Legislation / Court Cases

Conscience Protection: ACGME (1996; updated 5/04)

Conscience Protection: ACGME
The Accreditation Council for Graduate Medical Education (ACGME), a group that sets standards that teaching hospitals must obey to maintain accreditation, adopted a new policy requiring Ob/Gyn residency programs to perform abortions as part of their training. This coercive policy became effective January 1, 1996. Prior to this, most programs treated abortion as an optional elective.

In its final form, the ACGME policy included conscience protection for programs and residents with moral or religious objections but this left many programs unprotected. Also, those that invoked the conscience exception would risk being marginalized or stigmatized in the medical profession.

The purpose of ACGME’s new policy was to forcibly integrate abortion into the practice of medicine.

Rep. Peter Hoekstra (R-MI) and Sen. Dan Coats (R-IN) introduced freestanding bills to prevent state and federal reliance on ACGME’s coercive accreditation standards. Rep. Tom DeLay (R-TX) successfully offered a similar amendment to the Fiscal 96 Labor/Health and Human Services Appropriations Bill. At year’s end, that bill was stalled in the Senate.

In 1996, Congress included a version of these amendments in the final Fiscal Year 96 Continuing Resolution passed April 25. This language amends the Public Health Service Act and so is permanent law.
[NCHLA.org, updated 23May2004]