ALBANY — New York doctors and medical students will soon be prohibited from performing pelvic examinations on unconscious patients without prior consent under a measure enacted at the statehouse Monday.

Critics of the practice have argued that doing the exams on unconscious women subjects those patients to being treated like cadavers donated for scientific research.

The legislation was championed by advocates of women's health care and patients' rights.

New York is now the ninth state to ban such exams while a patient is unconscious or under the effects of anesthesia.

Planned Parenthood Empire State Acts, an advocacy group, said some patients have been subjected to the exams without having been made aware before they underwent surgery they were going to be performed on them.

Such treatment of patients violates "the trust and respect for bodily autonomy that should exist between a health care provider and a patient," the group said in a statement.

While the practice of conducting such exams on unconscious patients has been controversial for decades, the movement to ban or restrict pelvic, or vaginal, exams on patients without their consent has gained impetus with the rise of the #MeToo movement, which promotes measures aimed at countering sexual harassment.

"No one should have to worry about what unauthorized procedure can be done to their anesthetized body," said Sen. Roxanne Persaud, D-Brooklyn, a prime sponsor.

Contacted by CNHI, a spokeswoman for the the state Medical Society of New York State had no immediate comment on the legislation signed into law by Gov. Andrew Cuomo.

While the bill was still in discussion at the statehouse, a representative of the Medical Society met with Persaud to discuss concerns, resulting in revisions to the measure, said Mark Phillips, a spokesman for Persaud.

The federal government has no rule or legislation banning such unauthorized exams.

California became the first state to ban pelvic examinations in 2003. That was the same year the Association of American Medical Colleges called the exams by medical students on non-consenting patients "unethical and unacceptable."

The New York legislation takes effect in April. Once the law becomes effective, a violation will be considered an act of professional misconduct.

The second lead sponsor of the measure, Assemblywoman Michaelle Solages, D-Long Island, said the exams on unconscious patients are "intrusive and unnecessary."

Joe Mahoney covers the New York Statehouse for CNHI's newspapers and websites. Reach him at

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