Accessories by force

"Accessories by force" Continued...

Issue: "Crackdown," July 18, 2009

The politics of conscience protection are likely to be crucial. More than half of Democrats recently polled support conscience protection regulation, while a full 80 percent of Obama supporters surveyed believe that health care professionals should not be forced to practice medicine that violates conscience. Obama may have trouble responding to that majority while keeping his pledges to extreme pro-abortion backers: He declared in his May 18 Notre Dame speech that he wanted to "honor the conscience of those who disagree with abortion, and draft a sensible conscience clause, and make sure that all of our health care policies are grounded in clear ethics and sound science, as well as respect for the equality of women."

But some who support legalized abortion express concern: Dickinson College philosophy professor Crispin Sartwell criticized in the Los Angeles Times "the idea that, in assuming some function-some career, for instance-I resign my conscience to the institution or to the state." He called that "perhaps the single most pernicious notion in human history. It is at the heart of the wars and genocides of this century and the last."

MacArthur Hill, now a pro-life Christian, says that his practice is booming, mainly because of his unapologetic public stance against abortion. In 2008, he was voted "Doctor of the Year" at Lutheran Medical Center in Wheat Ridge, Colo., and delivered 270 babies-not bad for a 67-year-old former abortionist. Should conscience protection for health care professionals be removed, though, he has some advice for new doctors: "Go into dermatology."

The recent history of conscience rules

1973: The Church Amendment states that hospitals and individuals receiving federal funds will not be forced to participate in abortion or any other ­procedure that violates their moral or religious convictions.

1996: Public Health Service Act Section 245 prohibits discrimination against individuals or institutions that refuse to undergo or require abortion training. It also protects those who refuse to perform or provide referrals for abortion.

2004: The Hyde/Weldon Conscience Protection Amendment is an appropriations rider that prohibits discrimination against federally-funded health care providers (including individuals, hospitals, and health insurance companies) who will not pay for, provide, or refer for abortion.

2007: American College of Obstetrics and Gynecology (ACOG) issues Opinion No. 385, "The Limits of Conscientious Refusal in Reproductive Medicine," stating that health care providers have a duty to refer patients for services the provider finds morally objectionable or move their practice in close proximity to a provider of such services. ACOG warns OB/GYNs that "disqualification or diplomatic revocation . . . may occur whenever" they come into conflict with this ethical code, putting at risk board certification needed for hospital privileges and medical practice in general.

Dec. 18, 2008: Bush's Provider Conscience Regulations provide a way to enforce conscience protection.

March 5, 2009: The Obama administration signals its intent to rescind Bush's Provider Conscience Regulations.

April 9, 2009: The 30-day public ­comment period on Obama's proposal to eliminate Bush's Provider Conscience Regulations ends. An organization set up to fight the repeal, the Freedom2Care Coalition, reported sending nearly 50,000 protest comments to the Department of Health and Human Services.

Amy Henry
Amy Henry

Amy is a married mother of six and a WORLD correspondent from Kansas. Follow her other "scribbles" at Whole Mama or by reading her book Story Mama: What Children's Stories Teach Us About Life, Love and Mothering. Follow Amy on Twitter @wholemama.


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