The U.S. Department of Health & Human Services has issued proposed regulations that would require most recipients of HHS funds to certify that they comply with federal laws protecting the conscience rights of pro-life medical professionals. For over three decades the Church Amendment has prohibited recipients of HHS funding from compelling employees to participate in activities that violate their conscience. Two other federal statutes, the Coats-Snowe Amendment to the Public Health Services Act, enacted in 1996, and the Weldon Amendment, an appropriations rider first enacted in 2004, prohibit federal and state governments and other recipients of certain federal funds from discriminating against medical professionals who do not perform or refer for abortions.
Despite these clear protections of the rights of conscience of pro-life medical professionals, those on the ground see a different story. Medical students and professionals report pressure to perform, be trained to perform, or to otherwise be involved in assisting with abortions. (Link is to website of the Christian Medical Association which CLS has represented in defending its members’ conscience rights.) Moreover, CLRF’s own experience defending the Weldon Amendment illustrated the utter lack of understanding that some of the largest grantees of federal funds (including the State of California and abortion advocacy groups) have of their own obligations not to discriminate against pro-life medical professionals. The existing federal laws prohibiting the rampant discrimination in the healthcare profession are simply being ignored. The Department’s proposed regulations are urgently needed in order to ensure that pro-life physicians, nurses, physician assistants, and others are able to remain in the practice and that the next generation of medical professionals can enter the profession with the confidence that they will not be forced to choose between their career and their conscience.
Please take the time to submit a brief comment encouraging Secretary Leavitt to issue the proposed regulations. The email address is firstname.lastname@example.org. You may also go to www.Regulations.gov, click on the link “comment or submission” and enter the keywords “provider conscience” to submit a comment there. THE DEADLINE FOR SUBMITTING COMMENTS IS THURSDAY SEPTEMBER 25, 2008.
As abortion advocates have launched postcard campaigns opposing the regulations, any comment is helpful, even if just a brief 1-2 sentences urging their adoption. Of course, if you can relate an example of your own or a friend or client’s discriminatory treatment for their exercise of their rights of conscience that would be particularly helpful. And please encourage others to do the same. Some additional points you may want to make are below:
- The Department should enforce existing conscience protections, passed with bipartisan support and on the books for as long as three decades.
- Discrimination against pro-life medical professionals does not expand access to abortion. It drives a critical segment of the medical workforce from the profession, diminishing access to medical care and increasing costs.
- Urge the Secretary to interpret the existing regulations to explicitly protect medical professionals from being forced to dispense or refer for chemical abortifacients like RU-486 and “Plan B.”