The term “boycott” is almost never being used by organizations that have chosen to move a meeting because of a controversial state law such as a stricter abortion code, or because of a social movement such as an NAACP travel advisory for minority and LGBTQ+ people. However, the message that a relocated meeting delivers has roughly the same effect, including a financial impact on both the destination and the meeting group.
One large medical organization, the Association of periOperative Registered Nurses (AORN), decided in early June to move its 2027 annual surgical conference and expo from Orlando to Philadelphia. According to an article from the Orlando Sentinel, the group cited political concerns when it canceled, said Katarina Dos Santos, a spokeswoman for the convention center. Nicolette Sewell, another center spokesperson, told MeetingsNet that “AORN 2027 had a signed lease agreement with Orange County Convention Center which has been canceled and settled between the parties.”
In mid-2022, the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists canceled a plan to hold its 2023 annual clinical and scientific meeting in New Orleans because of a new Louisiana law that could bring punishment to those who provide, or even discuss, abortion care. According to an article on Medscape.com, ACOG also said that “it hopes other medical organizations follow suit by refraining from holding events in states with restrictive abortion laws.”
Alternate Responses to Host-Destination Controversy
Another association that took meeting-related action in the wake of new laws in Florida is the American Society of Nephrology. But rather than relocate its 2022 annual meeting from Orlando, the group created communications and activities on site that demonstrated its opposition to the laws.
“We signed contracts long before legislation was passed in Florida that endangered some of our most vulnerable patients, family members, friends, colleagues, and communities, including the LGBTQ+ community,” says Alexandra Zapple, CAE, CMP, CEM, DES, ASN’s senior director of meetings. “ASN chose to use the event as an opportunity to show strength and resilience in solidarity with kidney patients and colleagues in Florida and elsewhere whose dignities and freedoms were threatened.”
Click here to read more about ASN’s respond-not-relocate approach to political and social issues in a host destination.
On the issue of boycotts and relocations, there are still other opinions within the medical-association field. For example, the American Association for Cancer Research put out this statement in August 2022 regarding its decision not to relocate its 2023 annual meeting from Orlando, explaining that a boycott “disproportionately and adversely affects individuals in the local communities, such as employees of convention centers, hotels, transportation vendors, and restaurants. It does not drive meaningful legislative action. Instead, AACR will be engaging in open, productive national dialogue among policy makers, the healthcare community, and members of the public about issues that impact researchers, clinicians, and patients. We encourage our members and others to express their views directly to policy makers in their own states so that all U.S. citizens will continue to receive safe, evidence-based healthcare.”