by Steven Ertelt
March 19, 2008
Washington, DC (LifeNews.com) — The Bush administration received both attacks and praise for its support of pro-life doctors who don’t want to lose their OBGYN accreditation for not referring for abortions. Health and Human Services Secretary Mike Leavitt defended their conscience rights in a letter to a national OBGYN group last week.
Leavitt opposes the new policy the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists has been working on that says all doctors, including those who are pro-life, should refer women to abortion centers.
One of the biggest problems with the policy is that the college’s board could adopt it and doing or promoting abortions could become formally linked to obstetrician board certification.
Leavitt, in a letter on Friday provided to LifeNews.com, called on the college’s board to reject the policy and protect the conscience rights of physicians.
In a Tuesday press release, the pro-abortion Religious Coalition for Reproductive Choice claimed Leavitt showed a "disregard" for women.
The group said the idea that making sure physicians aren’t forced to do abortions or refer for them is more important than the so-called right to abortion is "contrary to widely held American values of church/state separation and respect for individual conscience."
"Secretary Leavitt’s dogmatic indifference to the patient is bad medicine, misguided ethics, and political pandering," the group claimed.
But Deirdre McQuade, spokesperson on pro-life issues for the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, told LifeNews.com that RCRC is off base.
"Secretary Leavitt should be commended for defending federal laws protecting the conscience rights of physicians," she said.
McQuade pointed to a decision by a federal judge in California dismissing a challenge to a federal law protecting physicians in government programs from being forced to do abortion referrals as providing additional legal basis for Leavitt’s letter.
She said the pro-abortion group’s view of conscience rights is so narrow that it recognizes the right only for doctors who agree with abortion.
"In fact, women and men, physicians and non-physicians, have a fundamental right not to be forced to participate in actions they believe are gravely wrong, especially actions involving the taking of an innocent human life," she concluded.
McQuade said the USCCB joins other pro-life groups in condemning the idea of relying on ACOG’s policy for board certification.
"If the American Board of Obstetrics and Gynecology relies on the ACOG opinion when deciding whether to grant board certifications, hospitals could find themselves illegally discriminating against perfectly qualified physicians who have been denied certification for ideological reasons," she explained.