Today in the chart

Nurse Organizations Respond to Overturning Roe

Within hours of the Supreme Court ruling overturning Roe v. Wade, nursing organizations across the country put out statements about the decision.

Within hours of the Supreme Court ruling overturning Roe v. Wade, nursing organizations nationwide made statements about the decision. The American Nurses Association, in a statement whose title called the decision” a Serious Setback for Reproductive Health and Human Rights,” spoke in broad terms about what the ruling does: “removes the right of all women to access high-quality health care and make personal decisions about their sexual and reproductive health care.” 

The ANA also warned that the ruling could lead to” laws that will fundamentally come between patients and health care professionals, including nurses, who must be guided by ethical obligations to their patients and the profession.” The organization had previously updated its reproductive health statement in March 2022 to include affirmation of abortion as “a reproductive health alternative that nurses can discuss when counseling patients.” 

ANA Emphasizes Impact on Nurses

The ANA remarks made clear that one of the most significant impacts on nursing could be a conflict between nurses’ ethical obligations to patients and the legal risks or threats they may face if they were to follow through on those moral obligations.

“Nurses have an ethical obligation to safeguard the right to privacy for individuals, families, and communities, allowing for decision making that is based on full information without coercion,” the ANA wrote. “ANA firmly believes that no nurse should be subject to punitive or judicial processes for upholding their ethical obligations to their patients and profession.”

The ANA acknowledged that nurses’ duty includes respecting patients’ decisions even if they do not agree or support the decision and that nurses” can exercise their right to refuse to participate in sexual and reproductive health care based on ethical grounds, as long as patient safety is assured and care by others has been arranged.” The inclusivity of that statement applies to all nurses, regardless of their specialty or personal views on abortion. 

“No matter their philosophical differences or belief systems, all nurses must strive to remain consummate health care professionals and display empathy and respect to all,” said ANA Enterprise CEO Loressa Cole. “This is a complicated issue and deeply personal for all, including nurses. Nurses, leaders, all health care professionals, and the public must engage on this issue with empathy and respect.”  

National Nurses United Calls for Action

The nation’s largest nurses union also issued a statement that noted RNs’ understanding “that abortion is a basic health care service.” It stated that the NNU” opposes any efforts to restrict our patients’ control and choices over their health care and their bodies,” citing bodily autonomy, self-determination, and dignity over their lives and healthcare as basic tenets of ethical medical care. 

The union did not mince words in characterizing the decision as a calculated attack, calling the decision “a shameful and dangerous assault on women, other child-bearing people, and families at a sweeping scale.” The NNU called the decision “part of a coordinated rightwing effort to undo hard-won human and civil rights in the United States and to control working people by removing their power and bodily autonomy.”

Then the NNU warned about the law’s impact, noting that abortions will not stop.” They will continue underground because they are a vital medical necessity, a basic health care service,” the NNU writes. “Abortions will simply become more expensive, harder to access, and in many cases unsafe. Those with money and resources will continue to be able to get safe abortions, and those without will not.” The lengthy statement notes the groups most likely to be impacted by the decision, the other rights that may now be at risk, and the need for continued advocacy for reproductive justice and” social, political, and economic justice.” 

State Nursing Groups Respond

In addition to statements from national nursing organizations, several state nursing groups put out their comments as well. For example, the Washington State Nurses Association noted that the decision “cuts across party lines” and is not about being “for” or “against” abortion but rather “is about the right to choose.” The WSNA also expressed concern about other rights, such as contraception access, now at risk in future rulings. 

The New York State Nurses Association noted how the ruling is likely to affect healthcare in that state, such as increasing demand for services since abortions will remain legal in New York. The NYSNA said the organization is” deeply disappointed that the Supreme Court has failed to uphold our human rights, and we believe their decision today will cause harm to thousands of pregnant people, children, and families throughout the country,” adding that the U.S. already leads other high-income nations in maternal and infant mortality.

The Massachusetts Nurses Association highlighted the disproportionate impact the ruling will have on certain groups, saying that the decision “radically disrupts healthcare in the United States and disproportionately places low-income, under-resourced and traditionally marginalized people at risk” while also adding “additional unfair obstacles to women and all child-bearing people who face heightened barriers to exercising their reproductive rights and autonomy.”

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