Statement on Dobbs Decision
Read the full statement regarding the Dobbs decision and the 2023 confernece location.
In the short time since the U.S. Supreme Court handed down the Dobbs decision yesterday, the AEFP Board has heard from many members who feel they cannot risk their health in traveling to our annual conference next spring if it is held, as it is currently scheduled, in Fort Worth, Texas. We hear, understand, and are sympathetic to these concerns, as Texas law under Dobbs now imperils access to reproductive health services for members who are pregnant or could get pregnant around the time of the meeting in March.
We have heard from others who do not feel comfortable supporting spending money in Texas or who do not like the idea that AEFP would hold a meeting in a state whose laws put members or others in danger. We hear these concerns as well.
AEFP strives to be an inclusive organization. We don't want to put our members in harm's way. We don't want to hold a conference in a location where some of our members can't attend due to safety concerns and thus miss out on the opportunities to share research, collaborate, and network that AEFP provides.
We want members to know that we have called an emergency meeting of the AEFP Board of Directors to consider our options for the 2023 conference.
Even before Dobbs was handed down, the Board had discussed relocating the conference, given members' concerns over SB 8, anti-LGBTQ+ executive orders, and other Texas policies. Certainly, these concerns will factor into future site selections (currently we are working on choosing cities to host the conference through 2030).
However, we also want members to understand the challenges that relocation presents so that everyone has a sense of what is at stake for the Association.
Fort Worth was chosen as a site over five years ago. The contract signed with the host hotel requires us to pay them, on an escalating scale, for a portion of the revenue they lose if we cancel. Currently, we would be on the hook for nearly $100,000. In the coming weeks, that number will go up.
It has long been a priority of AEFP to hold costs down for members to make the conference and other AEFP events as accessible as possible. As a result, we have a very tight budget without the kinds of large reserves that some organizations can tap to absorb a payment of this size. If we relocated, we would have to find those funds.
Conference locations that meet our size and space requirements are hard to find when you have years to look. We would now have nine months. We aren't saying this couldn't be done, but we can't guarantee that such a venue exists or that we wouldn't have to pay substantially more to secure new space in another state.
We could go on. The point is: it's tough. The Board will discuss and consider what's possible, but we wanted everyone to understand the position we are in. Trust that if there is no viable option except to hold the 2023 meeting in Fort Worth, we will work hard to ensure opportunities to participate in the conference for members whose health or other concerns mean that they cannot travel to Texas in person.
If you have thoughts or feedback to share, feel free to reach out to one of us or anyone on the Board.
Jason Grissom, Colin Chellman, Katharine Strunk, Richard Bowman, and Lydia Ross
AEFP Executive Committee