Ob/gyns will not have to travel to Texas to take the board certification exam this fall.
The announcement from the American Board of Obstetrics & Gynecology (ABOG) follows worries from physicians that gathering in large groups for the examination would leave them vulnerable to physical or political retaliation in the wake of the Supreme Court’s decision to overturn Roe v Wade.
ABOG is headquartered in Dallas, Texas, one of many states with a near-complete ban on abortion.
Though certification is voluntary, many doctors opt to take the 3-hour oral test to enhance their medical expertise beyond what their state requires.
ABOG held board certification exams online during the pandemic, with plans to return to in-person testing this fall. However, last week, the board said that online testing will continue “due to the increase in COVID-19 cases across the country and concerns regarding the U.S. Supreme Court opinion on Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization.”
More than 500 physicians petitioned against having in-person board certification exams last month in a letter addressed to the board.
“The state of Texas has severely restricted access to abortion and has allowed private citizens to take legal action against anyone suspected of assisting or performing terminations,” the letter says. “Due to the ‘aid and abet’ clause included in SB8, we may be targeted for legal or political retribution.”
SB8 is shorthand for the Texas Heartbeat Act, which authorizes anyone in the state of Texas to sue any individual whom they believe to have performed or induced an abortion, as well as people who aid or abet abortions in any way, such as paying for the abortion through their insurance.
Pregnant exam-takers also feared having to seek care for potential complications in Texas.
“We see no justifiable reason to mandate in-person oral board exams in a state that restricts basic healthcare of pregnant people and whose laws encourage vigilante targeting of physicians who perform abortions,” the letter continues.
Alice Abernathy, MD, a national clinician scholar in obstetrics and gynecology at the University of Pennsylvania’s Perelman School of Medicine, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, signed the petition and would be required to travel to Texas for her certification exam next year if ABOG’s future exam cycles are held in person.
“My job is straightforward — I take care of patients. I will not expose myself to risk of prosecution for delivering the highest standard of comprehensive reproductive health care to my patients,” Abernathy told Medscape Medical News.
Arianna Sarjoo is an intern at Medscape and biology major at Boston University.