Arizona Catholic Bishops Release Statement on Abortion-Conscience Rights
by Steven Ertelt
May 5, 2008
Phoenix, AZ (LifeNews.com) — Arizona’s Catholic bishops built on their reputation as some of the most assertive pro-life advocates in the country by releasing a new statement promoting the conscience rights of medical professionals. Conscience issues are concern not only for doctors and nurses but pharmacists as well.
Phoenix Bishop Thomas J. Olmsted delighted pro-life Catholics in November 2006 when he asked parishioners to tell the Komen breast cancer group to stop giving money to Planned Parenthood.
Now, he and Tucson Bishop Gerald Kicanas released a lengthy document on the Freedom of Conscience for medical professionals.
"Today in our state and elsewhere in our nation, health care professionals and institutions find themselves struggling to preserve their rights of conscience, especially in matters that would involve the taking of human life," they wrote in a May 2 pastoral statement LifeNews.com obtained.
"We are aware here in Arizona of doctors who face ridicule and difficult ramifications if they are unwilling to participate in or sanction abortions," they add.
They also pointed to an Arizona nurse who lost her job because she refused to participate in an abortion.
"Likewise, pharmacists in our communities feel compelled and are being forced to violate their conscience, especially in the distribution of medication that may act as an abortifacient," the bishops explained.
They say state and federal lawmakers need to keep those concerns in mind and protect those who moral or religious views compel them to abstain from practices such as abortion, euthanasia or questionable bioethics studies.
"We remain committed to supporting legislation to protect the ‘rights of conscience’ for all health-care providers," they conclude. "We are committed as well to oppose any measures that take away those rights."
In April 2005, Arizona Governor Janet Napolitano vetoed a bill that would allow a conscience clause for pharmacists to opt out of being involved with abortion drugs. Without enough votes to override the veto in the state legislature, the measure failed.
"Pharmacies and other health care service providers have no right to interfere in the lawful personal medical decisions made by patients and their doctors," Napolitano claimed.
However, pro-life groups and state lawmakers disagreed.
Saying his group was "extremely disappointed" by her decision, then-Arizona Right to Life director Shane Wikfors told LifeNews.com at the time that Napolitano was "beholden" to Planned Parenthood and abortion businesses.
Wikfors said the legislation was a "reasonable and legitimate approach to upholding the right to conscience and would have simply expanded current law already on the books."
The measure would provide protection for pharmacists who don’t want to dispense abortion drugs and worry about losing their jobs. It covers the sometimes-abortifacient morning after pill and would cover the dangerous RU 486 abortion drug as well.
In 1973 the Arizona Legislature authorized hospitals, physicians and staff persons associated with health care institutions to refuse to participate in an abortion if they object to participating based on moral or religious grounds.
The bill "expands on this concept" Wikfors said.
The state Senate voted 17-11 in favor of the bill and the state House approved it 35-24.