Obama Misleads on Federal Abortion Conscience Clause in Health Care Speech
by Steven Ertelt
September 10, 2009
Washington, DC (LifeNews.com) — Although members of Congress and the public were focused on abortion funding and other political issues during President Barack Obama’s health care speech, some observers have another reason to think, "You lie," when it comes to protecting the rights of heath care workers.
Obama claimed he is working to protect the rights of pro-life health care workers who don’t want to be involved in abortions or abortion referrals.
"One more misunderstanding I want to clear up — under our plan … federal conscience laws will remain in place," Obama said.
However, it is noteworthy that he raises the point at the same time his administration is in the process of repealing existing regulations to enforce conscience laws.
As Father Frank Pavone of Priests for Life noted after the speech, “If there are ‘misunderstandings’ or ‘bogus claims’ about abortion … in pending health reform legislation, as the President claimed in his speech, they are coming from the White House, not pro-lifers.”
In fact, Obama plans to revoke the Bush conscience clause, not retain it.
During his administration, President George W. Bush put new protections 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 acted after learning that medical centers and staff were facing increasing pressure to be involved in abortions despite three federal laws prohibiting such discrimination.
In March, the Obama 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 appeared 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."
Susan Muskett, an attorney who is the senior legislative counsel for National Right to Life talked with LifeNews.com at the time 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."
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