The American Medical Association approved more than 20 policy statements at its annual meeting this month tackling such issues as women’s reproductive rights, climate change, gun violence and cannabis-related convictions.
The physician group called for its most sweeping resolutions to oppose states attempting to criminalize abortion and other women’s reproductive services in the wake of a leaked Supreme Court draft decision posed to overturn Roe v. Wade.
Here’s an overview of notable policies and announcements from the meeting:
Multiple resolutions for abortion, contraceptives, women’s healthcare
The AMA called for several resolutions as the Supreme Court nears a decision on the right to an abortion, expected to be released before the court’s end of term later this month.
The association will seek legal protections for patients and physicians against governments punishing, controlling and criminalizing reproductive services, calling the practice an intrusion into evidence-based medicine and a “violation of human rights.”
The policy comes as states enact laws that go increasingly further to criminalize abortion. In May, Oklahoma signed into law the nation’s most strict abortion ban which prohibits abortions after fertilization and follows a previous law from neighboring Texas allowing private citizens to sue those who aid women seeking abortions.
Jack Resneck, Jr., who was sworn in as the AMA’s 177th president during the meeting, said that the association would seek legal protections for patients who cross state lines to receive abortions and the physicians who provide them.
If the Court overturns Roe v. Wade, 13 states will automatically and immediately ban abortions in the first and second trimester through trigger laws. Another 13 states have been deemed likely to ban abortions if Roe is overturned.
In another policy, the AMA urged the FDA to remove age restrictions on over-the-counter oral contraceptives. The association cited existing regulatory pathways that the FDA could use to convert oral contraceptives from prescription to over-the-counter medicines, adding that an application for a switch is expected to be submitted before the end of the year.
Climate change as a public health crisis
In a new effort to combat climate change, the AMA adopted a policy that declared climate change a “public health crisis that threatens the health and well-being of all people.”
With the new designation, the association announced that it will advocate for policies that aim at a 2050 carbon neutrality goal, reduce greenhouse gas emissions and limit atmospheric warming to no more than 1.5 degrees Celsius — the limit that most scientists agree would head off severe climate disruptions.
Its policy also aims to support clean energy solutions and significant climate resilience and climate justice investments.
Gun violence and cannabis policing
The policies call for active-shooter and live-crisis drills to be performed in an “evidence-based and trauma-informed” way to protect children’s physical and mental health. Active shooter drills, which are performed in schools across the country, have been called into question after students at Robb Elementary School conducted a drill just two months before the shooting.
In addition to trauma-informed shooter drills, the AMA also announced policies urging state legislatures and Congress to regulate “ghost guns,” or guns that are made outside of a regulation setting, and advocated for warning labels to be placed on gun ammunition. It also announced a formal approval of the Senate’s anti-gun violence bill package that has bipartisan support but lacks a signature, calling the bill a “breakthrough that shows compromise is possible.”
The AMA also called for the criminal records of now-legal cannabis-related offenses to be expunged, saying that criminal records can affect the careers, housing, education and public health benefits of those convicted. It also called for ending parole, probation and other court-supervised steps for cannabis-related offenses, citing data that shows a disproportionate arrest rate between Black and White people, despite similar rates of cannabis use.
Physician care and burnout
The association called for several policies addressing physician health following a May urging from the U.S. Surgeon General to address clinician burnout stemming from the COVID-19 pandemic.
In one announcement, the association called for “safe-haven” programs that encourage counseling and treatment for physicians and emphasized an already-begun advocacy campaign by the organization to support state legislative safe-haven laws like those in Virginia, Indiana, South Dakota and Arizona. The AMA will also continue to work with the Federation of State Physician Health Programs to educate doctors about wellness.
The AMA also announced a policy, called the Recovery Plan for physicians, which advocates for telehealth support and other reforms.
Disinformation, hair discrimination, poverty and more
Other policies announced at the meeting included policies aimed at combating the spread of healthcare disinformation amid the coronavirus pandemic, including distrust in vaccines.
The AMA also adopted policies that affirm that poverty is linked to adverse health outcomes, support workplace policies promoting cultural headwear and natural hairstyles and endorse other policies that would help people maintain healthcare insurance coverage following the expiration of pandemic-era regulations.