Doctors, Medical Professionals Deserve Conscience Protection on Abortion

National   |   Steven Ertelt   |   Sep 28, 2004   |   9:00AM   |   WASHINGTON, DC

Doctors, Medical Professionals Deserve Conscience Protection on Abortion Email this article
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By Jonathan Imbody
September 28, 2004 Note: Jonathan Imbody is the senior policy analyst for the Christian Medical Association.

The House of Representatives recently voted to prohibit government authorities from requiring any health care professional or institution to perform or pay for abortions.

Our Founding Fathers obviously would applaud this protection of individual liberties and conscience. Yet when D.C. officials faced this hot brewing battle a few years ago, they pushed free speech and freedom of religion aside and nearly plunged the capital into a health care crisis.

In July 2000, the D.C. Council thumbed its nose at faith-based hospitals and other conscientious objectors by passing a bill to force D.C. employers to provide health-insurance coverage for contraceptives and abortion-causing drugs — regardless of providers’ ethical or moral objections. The council’s unscrupulous decision left conscience-driven hospitals and charities with no other choice than to shut down rather than violate vital religious and
ethical principles.

The imperious mandate raised the specter of sick and dying patients lining up at City Hall demanding to know why pro-choice legislators had taken away their doctors’ choice and imperiled their own life-saving health care. Only a pragmatic pocket veto by the mayor, under threat of congressional intervention, stopped that measure and averted the potential shutdown of faith-based hospitals and charities.

Dissenting at-large Council member Harold Brazil, who had lobbied to add a "conscience clause" exemption to the mandate, reminded the council at that time, "James Madison once said, ‘Conscience is the most sacred of all property.’ " [i]

Since the D.C. debacle, abortion activists have hotly pursued their conscience-crushing campaign to make others provide and pay for their abortions and birth control.

Of course, they can’t easily explain why employers’ health-insurance plans, designed to help employees defray the cost of treating illness and disease, should suddenly be made to pay for preventing or ending a healthy pregnancy. Nor can they justify why providing relatively easily obtained contraceptive and abortifacient drugs requires violating the conscience rights of those who remain morally opposed to such practices.

Pushing reproductive rights toward reproductive mandates seems certain to backfire in the court of public opinion. The irony of trampling individual liberties and conscience rights while marching under the banner of "choice" will not be lost on the American public.

[i] Brazil, Harold, Letter to the Editor, Washington Post, August 5, 2000; Page A18