By Guy Page
The University of Vermont Medical Center, the state’s largest hospital, sent employees a letter Thursday describing the hospital’s new abortion policy and its support for a constitutional amendment enshrining the unlimited right to abortion.
UVM Medical Center in 2017 announced it would perform elective abortions. Signed by Lisa Goodrich, vice-president, Medical Group Operations, today’s letter provides more detail and is an apparent response to public concern about hospital policy regarding late term abortions. The letters states that at UVM Medical Center abortion:
- 22 weeks and earlier is a decision between patient and doctor;
- beyond 22 weeks involves “decision support and oversight” from ethicists and the chief medical officer;
- beyond 25 weeks “is extremely rare and only occurs after extensive consideration of exceptional medical need.”
The letter also included this legislative policy statement:
“At the University of Vermont Health Network, decisions about reproductive health, including abortion, are the concern of the patient and their provider, as is the case with all other medical care. We support state laws, including a constitutional amendment, that protect reproductive rights. This includes the right to contraception and to safe legal abortion. We also support the right of individual health care providers to elect to not participate in abortion procedures.”
The letter also provides an “opt out” policy for conscientious objectors at the hospital and the UVM Medical School.
The letter appears below verbatim and in its entirety. It was sent to Headliners by a hospital employee.
I am writing to update you on two abortion-related developments at UVM Medical Center: (1) a new institutional policy on abortion and (2) our position on legislation under consideration in the Vermont Legislature.
Abortion is a challenging topic. Communities everywhere struggle with it, and UVM Medical Center is no different. We will not achieve perfect consensus. The way we discuss abortion, however, is a chance for us to show that we value patient-centered care and respect each other even when we differ.
Institutional Policy on Abortion. To ensure we develop a thoughtful plan to provide comprehensive patient-centered reproductive services for our patients in a fashion that honors the diversity of belief held by our employees, we have undertaken a process of extensive consultation and discussion in order to develop a new institutional policy on abortion.
Over the last several months, Dr. Tim Lahey, Director of Ethics, under the leadership of the Chief Medical Officer Dr. Isabelle Desjardins, heard from physician leaders in obstetrics, family medicine, pediatrics and other specialties, nurse leaders in obstetrics, family medicine and the peri-operative space as well as registration staff, human resources leaders, the spiritual care team, and more.
The new UVM Medical Center abortion policy that resulted from these wide-reaching and collaborative conversations is now available here – http://policy.uvmhealth.org/Policies/Ethics/ETHI20.docx. Key features are:
– Abortion care prior to 22 weeks of pregnancy is a private decision between a patient and clinician;
– Abortion care from 22 weeks of pregnancy and later requires decision support and oversight from clinical ethics and the chief medical officer in an effort to ensure we weigh our scope of practice thoughtfully as a community
– Abortion beyond 25 weeks is extremely rare and only occurs after extensive consideration of exceptional medical need
– We respect the right of our employees and learners to request to opt out of participation in abortion care according to our conscientious objection policy, which is here –http://policy.uvmhealth.org/Policies/Human Resources – General/HR-F-09.docx
We are proud of the consultative process that led to this policy and impressed by everyone’s efforts to respect each other amid heartfelt differences of opinion.
Legislative statement. Amid an ongoing robust legislative conversation about abortion, the UVM Health Network has been asked by stakeholders, legislators, and our own employees to take a position. Network leadership thus went through a consultative process to ask leaders at each affiliate to lend their voice to this consensus institutional statement:
At the University of Vermont Health Network, decisions about reproductive health, including abortion, are the concern of the patient and their provider, as is the case with all other medical care. We support state laws, including a constitutional amendment, that protect reproductive rights. This includes the right to contraception and to safe legal abortion. We also support the right of individual health care providers to elect to not participate in abortion procedures.
At the UVM Medical Center, the AMC leadership team and the Medical Staff Executive Committee reviewed, discussed and ultimately endorsed the statement, which we believe reflects our dedication to comprehensive care at the same time it respects diverse beliefs in our community. We know abortion is a challenging topic and want to make sure you know we gave this deep consideration and listened to stakeholders across the network.
As a group of Vice Presidents and Health Care Service Leaders, the AMC team has agreed that we would lead the communication process with all of the staff in our respective areas. I would encourage you to review the policies that have been developed, and reach out directly to me with your comments or questions.
Thank you again for the many ways you bring your values to work and ensure we respect each other’s beliefs.
Statehouse Headliners is intended primarily to educate, not advocate. It is e-mailed to an ever-growing list of interested Vermonters, public officials and media. Guy Page is affiliated with the Vermont Energy Partnership; the Vermont Alliance for Ethical Healthcare; and Physicians, Families and Friends for a Better Vermont.