Obama Takes Next Step to Scrap Protections for Pro-Life Doctors on Abortion
by Steven Ertelt
March 6, 2009
Washington, DC (LifeNews.com) — President Barack Obama has taken the next step to remove the new protections the Bush administration put in place to protect pro-life medical centers and staff who do not want to do abortions. The protections provided better enforcement for existing conscience laws for medical professionals.
The Bush administration put the protections in place after learning that medical centers and staff were facing increasing pressure to be involved in abortions despite three federal laws prohibiting such discrimination.
Obama officials had told media outlets that the president wanted to merely clarify the existing rules, but, today, the administration published in the Federal Register a proposal to rescind the pro-life protections entirely.
"The Department is proposing to rescind in its entirety the final rule," Obama HHS officials wrote in the proposal.
The Obama administration appears to be relying on the objections pro-abortion groups posed to the abortion conscience clause and it refers to those objections from groups like Planned Parenthood in its proposal.
Abortion advocates "asserted that the rule would limit access to patient care and raised concerns that individuals could be denied access to services, with effects felt disproportionately by those in rural areas or otherwise underserved," the Obama administration noted.
"The Department believes that the comments on the August 2008 proposed rule raised a number of questions that warrant further careful consideration," it adds.
Because of the objections from pro-abortion groups, the Obama administration makes it clear the entire Provider Conscience Clause protecting medical professionals should be scrapped.
"Accordingly, we believe it would benefit the Department to review this rule, accept further comments, and reevaluate the necessity for regulations implementing the statutory requirements," it concludes. "Thus, the Department is proposing to rescind the December 19, 2008 final rule."
The Obama administration claims it wants further comments on the issue of enforcing laws to prevent making doctors and nurses participate in abortions, but the desire for comments in light of the proposal to rescind the rule appears redundant.
"Thus, the Department is proposing to rescind the December 19, 2008 final rule, and we are soliciting public comment to aid our consideration of the many complex questions surrounding the issue and the need for regulation in this area," the administration says.
Susan Muskett, an attorney who is the senior legislative counsel for National Right to Life talked with LifeNews.com about the Obama administration’s move.
"These conscience protection regulations were carefully crafted by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services after soliciting public comments and a lengthy period of review," she said. "Once again, the Obama Administration is doing the bidding of pro-abortion advocacy groups, which wish to penalize health-care providers who refuse to participate in providing abortions."
The publication of the proposal to rescind the Provider Conscience Clause opens up a 30-day public comment period, after which Obama will likely roll back the protections for medical personnel and facilities.
Bush officials noted a pattern of grant recipients being unaware of or flouting existing laws protecting medical professionals’ rights of conscience. So, HHS enacted the new regulations to require grantees to certify compliance with them in order to receive funds.
In August, 2008 the Department of Health and Human Services proposed regulations to strengthen those existing laws. The regulations were finalized on December 18, 2008 and went into effect January 20, 2009.
Abortion advocates complained about the new regulations and made false claims that they would somehow deny women access to birth control even though the regulations do not limit or restrict any legal practice or product.
Three pro-abortion groups and pro-abortion attorneys general from seven states filed a lawsuit to overturn the rules and today’s news makes it clear the Obama administration is preparing its own move to rescind them.
Three pro-life medical associations banded together to fight the lawsuit from abortion advocates and the pro-abortion state officials. Attorneys with the Christian Legal Society and the Alliance Defense Fund filed motions to intervene in that and two other lawsuits filed by top pro-abortion groups to overturn the Provider Conscience Clause.
Casey Mattox, an attorney with the Christian Legal Society, told LifeNews.com that the rules are needed so medical professionals have the security of knowing they won’t be pressured to participate in abortions.
“Medical professionals should not be forced to perform abortions against their conscience. Planned Parenthood, the ACLU, and their pro-abortion allies are seeking to punish pro-life medical professionals for their beliefs,” Mattox said. “Far from arguing for ‘choice,’ these lawsuits seek to compel health care workers to perform abortions or face dire consequences.”
The Bush conscience rules were intended to educate those in the medical field as well as the general public about the rights of medical personnel to treat their patients in accordance with their conscience free from discrimination or intimidation.
They also give health care professionals recourse to the HHS Office of Civil Rights and a way to press charges in the event they experience discrimination.
Pro-life advocates are encouraged to comment on the Obama proposal to remove the additional protections for pro-life medical professionals.
You can send comments to firstname.lastname@example.org asking that the existing regulations be maintained, but you must send your email within the next 30 days.
Comments should be limited to cases where medical professionals have been pressured into participating in an abortion, refutations of abortion advocates’ claims that protecting doctors will hurt access to health care, whether the Bush protections are a good idea, and whether the conscience clause could be implemented any other way.
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