By Susan Brinkmann, OCDS
Healthcare professionals who object to providing controversial drugs and procedures such as abortion on the grounds of religious or moral beliefs may soon receive federal protection from discrimination.
According to The New York Times, the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) has drafted regulations “to ensure that federal money does not ‘support morally coercive or discriminatory practices or policies in violation of federal law.’”
Recipients of federal health programs, such as hospitals and clinics, would have to certify that they will not refuse to hire healthcare providers who object to abortion or abortifacients (drugs or devices that can cause an early abortion).
The new rules would also require state and local governments that receive federal funding to certify that they won’t discriminate against hospitals and medical facilities that don’t do abortions when making grant considerations with federal money.
The New York Times obtained a copy of the proposed rules and HHS officials say they’re necessary to ensure federal funds do not “support morally coercive or discriminatory practices or policies in violation of federal law.”
Although Congress has already passed legislation designed to protect pro-life medical personnel, these laws have not been enforced. The new regulations rules are designed to enforce these existing laws.
Abortion advocates are protesting the proposal because of the way it defines abortion – as “any of the various procedures — including the prescription, dispensing and administration of any drug or the performance of any procedure or any other action — that results in the termination of the life of a human being in utero between conception and natural birth, whether before or after implantation.”
Such sweeping language can refer to many kinds of contraception, including the Plan B emergency contraception.
“The proposed definition of abortion is so broad that it would cover many types of birth control, including oral contraceptives and emergency contraception,” Mary Jane Gallagher, president of the National Family Planning and Reproductive Health Association, told the New YorkTimes.
Wendy Wright, President of Concerned Women for America, disagrees.
“Clearly, abortion advocates do not believe in the ‘right to choose’ if the choice is not to participate in abortion or provide drugs that can take the life of a human being,” she said in a press release.
“The regulation applies to abortion, which is clearly defined as an action that terminates a human life before or after implantation. When abortion advocates claim this regulation would discourage providing ‘contraception’ it reveals that their definition of ‘contraception’ includes drugs that would cause abortion.”
Dr. David Stevens, head of the 13,000-member Christian Medical Association, told LifeNews.com that he’s pleased President Bush is moving ahead with protections for pro-life doctors and nurses.
“It’s high time that the will of the people, as expressed over the past 35 years through laws passed by Congress, finally be translated into practical healthcare regulations,” he said.
“Americans on all sides of controversial issues such as abortion, reproductive technologies and assisted suicide can appreciate the need to protect everyone’s First Amendment rights of free speech and religious exercise. That means that healthcare professionals must be free to follow their individual conscientious convictions on these life-and-death matters,” he added.
Stevens said an internal survey of his group’s membership found 41 percent of pro-life physicians had been pressured to compromise their views on the job.
“Anecdotal accounts suggest that few persecuted healthcare professionals actually know their conscience rights and that they typically simply submit to pressure by resigning,” he said.
“Unless pro-life professionals are equipped to know and apply their conscience rights, they actually stand at risk of being weeded out from the profession altogether.”
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