Tuesday, August 12, 2008

HHS Secretary Leavitt Blogs on Medical Professionals' Conscience Rights, Possible Regulatory Protections

A couple of weeks ago, Greg blogged about a New York Times article describing a leaked proposed rule from inside the Department of Health and Human Services. The rule, if adopted, would protect require recipients of federal funds to certify in writing that they adhere to the three federal statutes prohibiting discrimination against healthcare workers who refuse to perform abortions.

On August 9, Secretary Leavitt posted an entry on his blog explaining that the draft regulation would not, as the abortion lobby would like to frighten people into believing, "define contraception as abortion." He explained:

"The Bush Administration has consistently supported the unborn. However, the issue I asked to be addressed in this regulation is not abortion or contraceptives, but the legal right medical practitioners have to practice according to their conscience and patients should be able to choose a doctor who has beliefs like his or hers."

Today he has posted a new entry noting that "with the help of Planned Parenthood, my blog -- for the first time -- received more visits than my teenage son’s MySpace page." He goes on to explain that he did find one comment from Mary Gallagher, President of the National Family Planning and Reproductive Health Ass'n, helpful. Ms. Gallagher said that IF the regulation is adopted, medical professionals "get to pick and choose what they want to do." Secretary Leavitt responded:

"So, according to Ms. Gallagher’s ideology, if a person goes to medical school they lose their right of conscience. Freedom of expression and action is surrendered with the issuance of a medical degree.

There is something I’d like to point out to Ms Gallagher and the people she represents. It is currently a violation of three separate federal laws to compel medical practitioners to perform a procedure that violates their conscience.

Obviously, some disagree with the federal law and would have it otherwise, so they have begun using the accreditation standards of physician professional organizations to define the exercise of conscience unprofessional and thereby make doctors choose between their capacity to practice in good standing and their right of conscience. In my view, that is simply unfair and a clear effort to subvert the law in favor of their ideology.

This is not a discussion about the rights of a woman to get an abortion. The courts have long ago identified that right and continue to define its limits. This regulation would not be aimed at changing or redefining any of that. This is about the right of a doctor to not participate if he or she chooses for reasons they consider a matter of conscience. Does the National Family Planning and Reproductive Health Association believe we can protect by Constitution, statute and practice rights of free speech, race, religion, and abortion—but not conscience?

Is the fear here that so many doctors will refuse that it will somehow make it difficult for a woman to get an abortion? That hasn’t happened, but what if it did? Wouldn’t that be an important and legitimate social statement?

I want to reiterate. If the Department of Health and Human Services issues a regulation on this matter, it will aim at one thing, protecting the right of conscience of those who practice medicine. From what I’ve read the last few days, there’s a serious need for it."

Exactly. I encourage you to go to Secretary Leavitt's blog and urge the Secretary to issue the proposed regulation protecting the conscience rights of medical professionals. Were there any doubt that it is necessary to remind abortion advocacy groups receiving federal grants that they cannot force medical professionals to perform abortions against their conscience, the abortion lobby's own reaction to these draft regulations eliminates those doubts.

1 Comment:

D Castle said...

It's clear that Secretary Leavitt's response to Mary Jane Gallagher's interview with CQ Beat (which is he quoted, not a comment. The secretary has yet to post Gallagher's comments, which can be read here)that he is not going to address what's really at issue: protecting access to contraception. Leavitt can continue to talk about how ideology is driving NFPRHA's campaign against these regulations, but the truth of the matter is that the administration has cloaked this rule change in a veil of anti-discrimination law.

A quick read of the regulations will reveal the transparency and show that these changes will indeed affect who can refuse to provide contraceptives. Sec. Leavitt, though, would rather engage in political nonsense than actually talk about what these rules would really do.