Iowa 'heartbeat bill' could severely impact UI healthcare programs

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IOWA CITY, Iowa (KCRG-TV9) -- A bill that would strictly limit abortions in Iowa could hurt the University of Iowa's medical school.

The so-called heartbeat bill would ban nearly all abortions once a fetal heartbeat is heard, which can be as early as six weeks into a pregnancy. The bill prompted a rare rebuke today even as supporters said its worth it.

Abortion is not typically an issue the University of Iowa and Board of Regents would weigh in on, but both issued statements today against the heartbeat bill. The University of Iowa's College of Medicine said it "will jeopardize our accreditation." That's because the OBGYN program requires Medical Colleges offer family planning training including abortion services.

The Board of Regents said the heartbeat bill would put limits on abortions in Iowa that "would eliminate the ability to meet training requirements." KCRG checked with the agency that handles accreditation, It said programs with abortion restrictions must "arrange for such resident training to occur at another institution." That would mean sending students out of state.

On the other side of the argument, Johnson County Right to Life said ending abortion is a bigger concern than having an accredited OBGYN program.

"I think it's disturbing for a profession that claims to be focused on health and healing would be more concerned about their training program than saving human life," said Sheryl Schwager, the executive director of Johnson County Right to Life.

The University of Iowa said if it lost accreditation, faculty and students would likely leave. That could mean paying more for doctors at UIHC to cover that work. The fetal heartbeat bill now heads to the Senate floor, where it will be eligible for debate the rest of the 2018 legislative session.

Read the full statements below.

From the University of Iowa Hospitals and Clinics:
"If this bill passes, University of Iowa Health Care will not be able to offer comprehensive training for our Obstetrician/Gynecology (OB/GYN) residents. This will jeopardize our accreditation with the Accreditation Council for Graduate Medical Education (ACGME.) The University of Iowa Carver College of Medicine and Iowa Obstetrics and Gynecology Department is accredited by ACGME. In order to receive ACGME accreditation, UI’s obstetrics and gynecology program is required to provide family planning training, including all forms of contraception and training in the provision of abortion, if the student so chooses. If this law was passed, limitations on abortions in Iowa would eliminate the ability to meet training requirements. The loss of accreditation for our OB/GYN program would also jeopardize accreditation for programs in neonatology and perinatology."

From the Accreditation Council for Graduate Medical Education:
"The ACGME’s role as an accreditor is to enforce a uniform set of specialty peer developed standards across all residency programs within that specialty so that patients have access to the highest quality care across the United States. Per the ACGME’s Requirements, “Residents must be able to provide patient care that is compassionate, appropriate, and effective for the treatment of health problems and the promotion of health.” They must also, “be able to competently perform all medical, diagnostic, and surgical procedures considered essential for the area of practice.”

All ACGME-accredited programs in obstetrics and gynecology must have a curriculum for family planning, including experiential training in the complications of abortions and the opportunity for direct procedural training in terminations of pregnancy for those residents who desire it. Access to experience with induced abortion must be part of the curriculum in order to ensure that physicians in training have the opportunity to gain the experience necessary to care for all of their patients’ needs. Programs with restrictions to the provision of family planning services or the performance of abortions at their institutions must arrange for such resident training to occur at another institution.

Residents who have a religious or moral objection may opt out of training in or performing elective abortions. ACGME accreditation decisions are rendered by Review Committees made up of volunteer specialty experts specialists from across the nation who set accreditation standards and provide peer evaluation of specialty Residency and subspecialty Fellowship Programs.

Programs are expected to remain in compliance with the standards set in each discipline by their peers, and program compliance with these standards is assessed every year for every Program and Sponsoring Institution in the United States. There is exceptional compliance with these standards. While programs receive “citations” in areas that require improvement, the vast majority of programs rapidly rectify these deficiencies. Programs that fail to rectify deficiencies risk adverse accreditation decisions up to, and including, withdrawal of accreditation.

The ACGME is unable to predict the impact in the local context of such legislation on a program’s ability to successfully comply with accreditation standards. The ACGME defers to the programs and sponsors to comment on whether they believe the implementation of pending legislation would impact their ability to adhere to these requirements for training physicians."

From the Iowa Board of Regents:
"If this bill passes, University of Iowa Health Care will not be able to offer comprehensive training for its Obstetrician/Gynecology (OB/GYN) residents. This will jeopardize its accreditation with the Accreditation Council for Graduate Medical Education (ACGME). The University of Iowa Carver College of Medicine and Iowa Obstetrics and Gynecology Department is accredited by ACGME. In order to receive ACGME accreditation, UI’s obstetrics and gynecology program is required to provide family planning training, including all forms of contraception and training in the provision of abortion, if the student so chooses. If this law was passed, limitations on abortions in Iowa would eliminate the ability to meet training requirements."