Monday, March 16, 2009

Tell the Obama Administration to Enforce Laws Protecting Conscience Rights

As previously noted, the Department of Health and Human Services has now moved to rescind the federal regulations prohibiting federal grantees from discriminating against medical professionals and institutions that decline to perform or refer for abortions or against medical students that do not wish to train in the performance of abortions. The proposed rescission has now been published in the federal register, triggering a 30 day period for public comment on rescinding this rule. Despite earlier media statements from unnamed HHS officials, the Administration has not proposed simply to "clarify" the rule, but have proposed completely throwing out the conscience protection rule altogether.

The conscience protection rule imposes no new obligations on federal grantees, but requires HHS grantees to certify that they will comply with three federal laws, the Church Amendments, Coats-Snowe Amendment, and Weldon Amendment. It also provides for a process by which a medical professional or institution may report their discriminatory treatment to HHS so that the agency may take action.

HHS previously explained that the rule was necessary, in part, because grantees and the public are unaware of these statutory protections - a fact confirmed in the lawsuits CLRF has been involved in defending medical conscience rights. HHS also explained that discriminatory treatment of medical professionals and institutions also threatened access to health care by driving pro-life medical professionals from the profession and causing faith-centered medical institutions (like Catholic hospitals) to close their doors rather than perform abortions.

The public, whether medical professionals, patients, or others interested, are invited to file public comments on the proposed rescission of the HHS rule. While stories of discrimination you or others have faced is helpful, ANY comment, even a few sentences, is helpful.

A website [] has been created to help facilitate complaints of discrimination and submission of comments to HHS in support of the existing regulations and in opposition to their rescission. You can also share the link with your facebook and twitter friends.

Comments are due by April 8, but do it today!