Message From the President Regarding New Orleans
Next week, member registration will open for the 64th ASH Annual Meeting in New Orleans, Louisiana. While we are looking forward to welcoming everyone in person to network and absorb the latest science, I’m writing to address an issue that is on many of your minds. You may be aware that ASH recently issued a press statement in response to the Supreme Court decision to overturn Roe v. Wade, in addition to a more extensive ASH policy statement on The Right to Maternal Health Care. Trigger laws in nearly half the nation’s 50 states, including Louisiana, now threaten the doctor-patient relationship and women’s right to make their own reproductive health care decisions. As was the case last year when the meeting was in Atlanta and the state of Georgia passed restrictive voter legislation, many of you have asked if ASH will pull the meeting from New Orleans in response to these alarming developments.
Sadly, laws that threaten the rights – and lives – of our patients and colleagues are becoming more prevalent. Currently, more than half of all states have laws that run counter to ASH’s principles on issues ranging from abortion and voter suppression to LGBTQ+ rights. Avoiding them is a moving target, as new laws are introduced and others are challenged within the courts.
It’s also somewhat counter-productive and unfair to ignore the voices of those who are advocating for maternal health care within a given state. For example, New Orleans’ Mayor LaToya Cantrell expressed her public support for a woman’s right to be in control of her own reproductive health choices, and ASH has been working in concert with the Convention and Visitors Bureau and local leaders in New Orleans to advocate for change. This is similar to the situation last year, when ASH’s views were aligned with those of Atlanta’s mayor, although not with policies at the state level.
Boycotts often cause further harm to the communities that suffer the most under the laws in question, and we do not believe that withholding business from New Orleans is the best way to effect change. We must counter bad legislation with advocacy and education so that legislators understand the harms that can result from repressive laws that interfere with our ability as physicians to deliver the best care. We have learned, for example, that many legislators are not aware of the impact of chemotherapy during pregnancy and the choices that physicians and patients must consider in these and other circumstances, including decisions about preserving options for becoming pregnant in the future.
State-level advocacy is now more critical than ever, and ASH offers a toolkit on our website that members in any state can use to tell their local officials to protect access to health care, along with an advocacy campaign geared toward both federal and state elected officials. We encourage all ASH members to join the ASH Grassroots Network to stay updated on how you can take action to make your voice heard.
In the meantime, ASH will continue to engage with our colleagues in New Orleans and sister organizations to increase our impact. In addition to our own statements, ASH has also signed on to a letter initiated by the Council of Medical Specialty Societies and another developed by the American Medical Association and the American College of Obstetrics and Gynecology. We plan to do even more in the coming months.
We know this will be a long-term effort, and there is much work to be done. The issue of reproductive rights is one that is highly personal, and we understand that our members must make decisions consistent with their own values. We hope that you will participate in our advocacy efforts and plan to join us – either in New Orleans or as a virtual participant – this December.
Jane N. Winter, MD
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