House passes Fogarty legislation to protect women from non-consensual pelvic exams


STATE HOUSE — The House of Representatives today passed legislation introduced by Rep. Kathleen A. Fogarty (D-Dist. 35, South Kingstown) that would protect women from non-consensual pelvic exams.

The bill (2021-H 5544) would amend the definition of unprofessional conduct to include performing a pelvic examination without consent of an anesthetized or unconscious female patient.

“While most physicians conduct themselves with professionalism when it comes to obtaining consent, there have been occasions when others — such as medical students —have been present for pelvic exams without the consent or knowledge of an unconscious patient,” said Representative Fogarty. “There should be no question that this type of conduct is unprofessional and unacceptable.”

Nonconsensual pelvic exams often happen in teaching hospitals where many states allow medical students to perform internal exams on unconscious patients without their consent or knowledge. A recent survey of medical students from seven American medical schools found that 92 percent had performed a pelvic exam on anesthetized female patients, 61 percent of whom reported not having explicit consent from the patients, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures.

The measure now moves to the Senate for consideration.



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