No choice

Abortion | Despite protections, state courts force hospitals to abort babies

Issue: "Sex, lies, & audiotape," July 27, 2002

Abortion advocates claim to be "pro-choice," but they don't want communities or hospitals to have a choice about performing abortions. Some state courts are forcing hospitals to perform the procedure, despite a 1996 law meant to protect health-care professionals and any "health-care entity" from such coercion. In 1998, a number of senators said that they meant for "health-care entity" to include hospitals, but the pressure continues.

Rep. Michael Bilirakis is offering the Abortion Non-Discrimination Act to guarantee that hospitals have the conscience protections that Congress intended. Both sides of the issue testified at a July 11 hearing on the bill. Karen Vosburgh told of how officials at her nonsectarian community hospital in Palmer, Alaska, decided that "hospitals are for healing, not for killing" and adopted a pro-life policy, but it was reversed by the Alaska Supreme Court. Catherine Weiss of the ACLU called for a "balance" between religious liberty and abortion rights, so that hospitals that receive public funds should not gain a "broad and dangerous" exemption from performing abortions.

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