Exploring Human Potential

Mike Magee’s Advice To The AMA On Reversal of Roe v. Wade.

Posted on | June 27, 2022 | 10 Comments

Mike Magee

Stable, civic societies are built upon human trust and confidence. If you were forced to rebuild a society, leveled by warfare and devastation, where would you begin? This is the question the U.S. Army faced at the close of WW II, specifically when it came to rebuilding Germany and Japan, hopefully into stable democracies. The Marshall Plan answered the question above, and its success in choosing health services as a starting point was well documented by many in the years to come, including the RAND Corporation. Their summary in 2007 said in part, “Nation-building efforts cannot be successful unless adequate attention is paid to the health of the population.” 

They began with services for women and children, the very location that a splinter of politicians and Supreme Court Justices has targeted, replacing entrusted doctors with partisan bureaucrats in an approach so obviously flawed that it forced a course correction a half century ago in the form of Roe v. Wade.

The practice of Medicine is complex. Ideally it requires knowledge, skills, supportive infrastructure, proximity and presence. But most of all, it requires trust, especially in moments of urgency, with lives at stake, when an individual, and family, and community are all on high alert. When time is of the essence, and especially if one or more people are trying to make the right decision for two, rather than one life, decisions are impossibly personal and complex.

This was widely recognized by most physicians, including those most devout and conservative nationwide in the troubling years leading up to Roe v. Wade. As recently as 1968, the membership of the Christian Medical Society refused to endorse a proclamation that labeled abortion as sinful.  In 1971, America’s leading conservative religious organization, the Southern Baptist Convention, went on record as encouraging its members “to work for legislation that would allow the possibility of abortion under such conditions as rape, incest, clear evidence of severe fetal deformity, and carefully ascertained evidence of the likelihood of damage to the emotional, mental, and physical health of the mother.” In 1973, both the Southern Baptist Convention and the Christian Medical Society chose not to actively oppose the Supreme Court ruling against a Texas law prohibiting abortion known as Roe v. Wade, and reaffirmed that position in 1974 and 1976.

What they recognized was that the nation’s social capital, its political stability and security, relied heavily on the compassion, understanding and partnership engendered in the patient-physician relationship. As most doctors saw it, what possible good could come from putting politicians in the middle of such complicated, emotion-ridden, and highly personal decisions?

The American Medical Association’s prepared reaction to the June 24, 2022, reversal to Roe v. Wade was direct and immediate. They labeled the decision “an egregious allowance of government intrusion into the medical examination room, a direct attack on the practice of medicine and the patient-physician relationship…” Their president, Jack Resneck Jr. M.D. went further to say, “…the AMA condemns the high court’s interpretation in this case. We will always have physicians’ backs and defend the practice of medicine, we will fight to protect the patient-physician relationship..” But what exactly does that mean?

Approaching 75, and a lifelong member of the American Medical Association, I expect I know the AMA, its history as well as its strengths and weaknesses, about as well as anyone. Aside from having deep personal relationships with many of the Board of Trustees over the years (some of whom quietly continue to contact me for advice), I have studied the evolution of the patient-physician relationship in six countries over a span of forty years.

Those who know me well, and who have pushed back against my critique of the organization, know that my intentions are honorable, and that the alarms that I sound reflect my belief that, for our profession to survive as noble, self-governing, and committed above all to the patients who allow us to care for them, we must have a national organization with reach into every American town and city, and official representation in every state, and every specialty.

My concern today, despite the strong messaging from Chicago, is that the AMA and its membership have not fully absorbed that this is a “mission-critical” moment in the organization’s history. It is also an opportunity to purposefully flex its muscles, expand its membership, and reinforce its priorities. The strong words, without actions to back them up, I believe, will permanently seal the AMA’s fate, and challenge Medicine’s status as a “profession.”

Here are five actions that I believe the AMA should take immediately to make it clear that physicians stand united with our patients, in partnership with nurses and other health professionals, and that the actions of last week can not and will not stand.

  1. The AMA should pull all financial support for all Republican candidates through the 2022 elections.
  2. The AMA should actively encourage physician “civil disobedience” where appropriate to protect the health and well being of all women, regardless of age, race, sexual identity, religion, or economic status.
  3. The AMA should convene, under the auspices of its’ General Counsel, Andra K. Heller, a formal strategy meeting with the legal counsels of all state and specialty medical societies to formulate an aggressive legal approach to minimize the damage of the recent Supreme Court action.
  4. The AMA should actively promote AMA volunteers to help provide a full range of women’s health care services at federal institutions and on federal land, and stand up information sites that coordinate travel and expenses should inter-state travel be required for care access.
  5. The AMA should immediately make clear that any restriction of prescribing authority of medications in support of women’s health care, including contraceptive medications and devices, and Plan B treatments will result in a coordinated nationwide disruption of health services.


10 Responses to “Mike Magee’s Advice To The AMA On Reversal of Roe v. Wade.”

  1. Larry McGovern
    June 27th, 2022 @ 12:08 pm

    Absolutely WONDERFUL, Mike!!!

  2. Mike Magee
    June 27th, 2022 @ 12:22 pm

    Thanks, Larry!

  3. Denise Link
    June 27th, 2022 @ 2:02 pm

    I concur, especially the recommendation to withhold campaign donations, in ANY amount. That, I believe will have the greatest impact. Voting for candidates who have consistently gone on the record to favor reproductive justice, marriage equality, and unrestricted access to contraception will be essential.

  4. Mike Magee
    June 27th, 2022 @ 2:25 pm

    I think that’s right, Denise. In the area of weaponized Public Affairs (or Gov. Relations Plus), you need to be certain that your headline is not buried, and does not underwhelm. Pulling all funding and tying it to the Midterm Elections sends a clear message that (as currently constructed) the Republican Party means the House of Medicine “no good.”

  5. Michelle Gross
    June 27th, 2022 @ 6:49 pm

    Thank you for this excellent commentary. While I appreciate the AMA’s powerful words, they must be paired with equally powerful actions. Some of these are actions that can only be taken by physicians and other licensed healthcare professionals. Women and families are counting on you to act swiftly and powerfully.

  6. Mike Magee
    June 27th, 2022 @ 7:16 pm

    Thanks for this, Michelle!

  7. Randy Souders
    June 28th, 2022 @ 12:00 am

    Mike, as a physician I’m hoping you can answer a question I’ve wrestled with for some time, namely–

    “Precisely when does life well and truly end?”

    Is it…

    With the last breath?
    The last heartbeat?
    The last brainwave?
    The last_________?

    As we know thousands of hearts and lungs are stopped and re-started each day for surgery without the patient being declared dead. Other hearts and lungs that cease functioning are successfully revived by CPR. Countless organs are harvested from bodies hours after being declared “dead” only to be transplanted and live on in others. The bodies of people declared “brain dead” can be kept alive for years despite their obvious lack of viability. And stories abound from those who swear they were proven “dead” ..left their bodies.. even traveled to heaven only to be “miraculously resurrected” to live on.

    I ask this because many Pro Life advocates claim life begins at the precise instant of conception. Others in their camp deem the presence of a fetal heartbeat as being exact moment a “human life” exists. Both seem clearly arbitrary and in conflict. Yet both declare their “instant” confers full legal rights and protections to the fetus.

    It seems to me that if we are to have a legally mandated, precise instant when a life begins it follows that there must be another for when it ends. Yet even after the repeal of Roe v. Wade it appears the goalposts are still not fixed but arbitrary moving still moving. Where, therefore, is that clear “bright line” between life and non life that these laws decree?

    I’m neither a doctor, philosopher, theologian nor lawyer. But I am convinced the only ones clearly qualified to answer my question are doctors as the others are merely opining.

  8. Mike Magee
    June 28th, 2022 @ 7:57 am

    Thanks for this thoughtful comment, Randy. Long ago, in a speech to AMA leaders, I was quoted as saying, “Doctors are not saints, or sinners. They’re just human beings, like you and I.” My point then was to emphasize that health professionals movement to the light or toward darkness is a function of two things – 1) What is going on in the environment, and 2) Who is leading at the time. Clearly we are now embroiled in an environment filled with turmoil, and with an abundance of tribal leadership, and over-flowing social media noise intent on reinforcing “alternative facts.” Under circumstances like these, doctors and nurses and health professionals must narrow their focus down to the individual in need and their family and social support network. “How may I best care for you at this specific moment in time?” “How can I help?” The boundaries of life remain mysterious, indeterminate really, and a function or construct unique in every instance, and defined by one’s will to live and be alive as much as anything else. Roe v. Wade, I think, went as far as one might at the time to help citizens and their doctors balance the competing interests of two living organisms, understanding that reaching a pathway that would allow the best movement forward possible would never line up with “perfection.” Inserting politicians and lawyers into the mix had already been proven to be a disaster on both ends of the scale – with access to safe abortions and with false claims of “Death Panels.” Doctors, by oath, agree to insert themselves on request into these solemn, impossibly complex, human dilemmas, not to provide an answer to your question (which may be beyond human reach), but simply to help those in need. Wishing you well! Mike

  9. Larry McGovern
    June 28th, 2022 @ 9:00 am

    Impressive comment by Souders, and thoughtful reply, Mike.

    On #1 of your 5 actions recommended to the AMA. I would tweak it a bit, as it could be considered too all inclusive. Suggest no financial support to those Republicans (and even some Dems: e.g. Rep Cuellar in Texas) who do not support reproductive care, including abortion.

    Keep up the good work, Mike


  10. Mike Magee
    June 28th, 2022 @ 9:17 am

    Thanks, Larry. The challenges that the profession of Medicine now face begin, rather than end, with this Supreme Court decision on Roe v. Wade. Were the currently radicalized Republican party to successfully dominate midterm Federal and State elections, in combination with the now religiously infused conservative Supreme Court, the next steps would likely be devastating to our citizens and immobilize their caregivers. I believe the naive actions of Senators like Susan Collins, as well as the aggressive steps taken concurrently within Republican led statehouses, well reveal the party’s intentions. The recommendation to halt all donations to the party was quite purposeful – and intended to signal in a definitive way to Mitch McConnell that his party as constituted is no longer politically viable. Thanks, Mike

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