For Pro-Lifers, an Early Christmas Present from President Bush — regulations to protect the conscience rights of healthcare professionals

President Bush’s days may be numbered, but not his pro-life influence. In a monumental decision that will be felt well into the next administration, the White House-with the cooperation of the Department of Health and Human Services-made good on its promise to protect the faith and conscience of health care workers. Today, the President fulfilled the longstanding request of pro-life healthcare professionals: to issue new rules that reinforce the rights of doctors, pharmacists, technicians, and even receptionists. 

More Information:

LifeNews.com is reporting, “ To read it in mainstream media reports or hear it from abortion advocacy groups, the Bush administration is almost ready to put into place a draconian policy that would hurt women and prevent access to birth control. But one top pro-life medical official says that’s not at all what the new Bush policy would do.”

The policy merely enforces existing laws that preventing forcing either medical centers or staff to do abortions.

It enhances the laws by making state and local governments and medical centers say they will follow them and threaten to revoke federal funding if they don’t.

Jonathan Imbody, the vice president of government relations for the Christian Medical Association, explains the policy and debate further in an editorial appearing in today’s Washington Times.

He calls the new policy “modest” and says the “regulation that would ensure freedom of conscience in health care.”

“The regulation would finally implement over 35 years of federal civil rights law aimed at protecting health care professionals from abortion-related coercion,” he said.

“Abortion advocates have been lobbying vociferously to cast abortion as standard medical care and to mandate abortion participation by all health care professionals,” he says.

That’s because only a “tiny fraction” of medical centers and staff want to be involved in abortions.

Imbody worries that the “HHS regulation, expected to be finalized before December 20, could be overturned by a pro-abortion Congress and president, either through new legislation or a new regulation.”

If Obama and his pro-abortion friends in Congress overturn the new rules, Imbody says it will create an irony where so-called “pro-choice” forces force doctors and other medical professionals to be involved in abortions. 

That, he says, could have grave consequences for health care.

“Most Americans easily recognize the hypocrisy of forcing ‘pro-choice’ ideology on all health care professionals,” he said.

“By driving out pro-life obstetricians and gynecologists who refuse to participate in abortions, abortion mandates would ironically decrease women’s access to some of the most conscientious and compassionate physicians in America,” he writes. “Abortion mandates threaten to shut down thousands of life-affirming, faith-based hospitals and clinics that provide care in some of the nation’s most underserved communities.”

Imbody also blames the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG) for creating the need for the Bush rules by working in tandem with pro-abortion groups to put pressure on doctors to do abortions or refer for them.

“Conscientious physicians and other health care professionals are being pressured, under threat of job loss, to violate medical ethics standards by performing abortions and referring patients to abortion clinics to do the deed,” Imbody writes.

“By ripping conscience from its foundation of objective standards and demoting it to the level of subjective feelings, ACOG paints abortion objections as a clash between a physician’s feelings and a patient’s autonomy,” he adds.

ACOG is going further, Imbody writes, by putting forward plans to revoke board certification for physicians who are not involved in the abortion process.

“Given the official link between ACOG ethics positions and physician board certification, obstetricians who refuse to follow ACOG’s abortion mandate now presumably stand to lose their hospital privileges and their livelihood,” he says.

This from the Washington Post

The Bush administration yesterday granted sweeping new protections to health workers who refuse to provide care that violates their personal beliefs, setting off an intense battle over opponents’ plans to try to repeal the controversial measure.

The far-reaching regulation cuts off federal funding for any state or local government, hospital, health plan, clinic or other entity that does not accommodate doctors, nurses, pharmacists and other employees who refuse to participate in care they find ethically, morally or religiously objectionable. It was sought by conservative groups, abortion opponents and others to safeguard workers from being fired, disciplined or penalized in other ways.

The 127-page rule, which was issued just in time to take effect in the 30 days before the change in administrations, is the latest that the administration is implementing before President Bush’s term ends.

David Stevens of the Christian Medical Association said: “We will do all in our power to ensure that health-care professionals have the same civil rights enjoyed by all Americans. These regulations are needed, do not change the law but simply stop religious discrimination.”

This from the FRC

Earlier this fall, FRC had filed comments with HHS Secretary Michael Leavitt, encouraging the agency to move forward with the rules. We applaud both him and President Bush for seeing the directive through to its completion. 

This is a huge victory for religious freedom and the First Amendment. No one should be forced to have an abortion, and no one should be forced to be an abortionist. These regulations will ensure that conscience protection statutes will be strongly enforced by the government just as other civil rights laws are. It’s also a victory for the right of patients to choose doctors who agree with their personal beliefs. Unfortunately, the lack of regulations had created some confusion in the health care community, leaving medical professionals vulnerable to discrimination, and, in some cases, forcing them to drop their specialties at a crucial time for health care provision. 

Protecting the right of all health care providers to make professional judgments based on their moral convictions is foundational to federal law. The next administration will inherit these rules, and we strongly urge President-elect Obama to defend them. True tolerance would allow the choice of conscience to be defined by individuals-not the government.’’

This from the Christian Medical Association

Dr. David Stevens, CEO of the 16,000-member Christian Medical Association (CMA, www.cmda.org) today said that a U.S. Department of Health and Human Services regulation implementing over 35 years of civil rights laws governing healthcare will “protect patients and patient access to physicians who adhere to life-affirming ethical standards.”

“By protecting physicians and other healthcare professionals who still adhere to the Hippocratic Oath, the Judeo-Christian Scriptures and other objective standards of medical ethics, this regulation serves to protect patients who want access to conscientious and compassionate care from life-affirming physicians,” Dr. Stevens said. “These objective standards have for millennia formed the foundation of patient care and protection, and this regulation insures that physicians and others won’t be run out of the profession for upholding those standards.”

Dr. Stevens noted, “A scientific poll reveals that only 38 percent of Americans realize that physicians may not legally be coerced into performing or referring for abortions. It’s time to educate the medical community to restore these civil rights and put an end to discrimination.”

Dr. Stevens noted that 41 percent of CMA members responding to a survey reported being “pressured to compromise Biblical or ethical convictions.”

“Physicians report being forced out of medical positions, residents report loss of training privileges, and students report discrimination in medical school admissions,” Dr. Stevens said.

“Over the past 35 years, Congress has passed civil rights laws to protect healthcare professionals from such discrimination, and today those laws are finally being implemented. We commend Secretary Leavitt for implementing the law, for protecting First Amendment freedoms, and for upholding the interests of patients who value and are protected by life-affirming standards of medical ethics,” Dr. Stevens said.

CMA Senior Vice President Dr. Gene Rudd, an obstetrician-gynecologist, added, “Medical students have been reporting to us that they are deciding not to pursue careers in obstetrics and gynecology for fear of coercion to do abortions. Obstetricians are already being forced out of the profession because of soaring malpractice insurance costs. Forcing yet more obstetricians out of the profession simply for following the Hippocratic Oath and other medical ethical standards would only further harm patient access. Like such ethical standards, this regulation ultimately protects patients.”