Congressmen Challenge President Obama on Abortion-Conscience Clause Promise

National   |   Steven Ertelt   |   May 19, 2009   |   9:00AM   |   WASHINGTON, DC

Congressmen Challenge President Obama on Abortion-Conscience Clause Promise

by Steven Ertelt Editor
May 19
, 2009

Washington, DC ( — Two prominent pro-life congressmen are challenging President Barack Obama on his recent comments during his Notre Dame graduation speech that he supports a conscience clause. Obama told students he wanted to find common ground on abortion and used the conscience clause as an example.

However, his administration has already proposed overturning a measure President Bush put in place to uphold three conscience laws.

"Let’s honor the conscience of those who disagree with abortion, and draft a sensible conscience clause, and make sure that all of our health care policies are grounded in clear ethics and sound science, as well as respect for the equality of women," Obama said.

In response, Reps. Jim Sensenbrenner of Wisconsin and Chris Smith of New Jersey held a press conference today and called on Obama to forgo rescinding the Bush Administration conscience protection regulation.

“You indicated that you wanted to ‘honor the conscience of those who disagree with abortion.’ Given our agreement in regard to a conscience clause, we respectfully request that you put an end to your Administration’s review of the Bush Administration rule that enforces existing conscience protection laws and completely forgo the rescinding of this rule," they said in a letter to Obama.

"In addition, we urge you to commit to defending conscience protections in future rulemaking that affects both individual and institutional health care providers," they wrote.

The letter, provided to, told the president that, since he says he is committed to reducing the number of abortions, "We urge you to use all the tools at your disposable to keep conscience protections in place and reduce the number of abortions in the United States."

In comments during the press conference, Sensenbrenner said Obama talks about a pro-choice stance but needs to apply that consistently.

“If this Administration wants to be the Administration of choice, than all people need to have their choices protected," he said.

“The religious and moral views of health care workers should be respected. Workers should have the right to refuse to participate in an abortion procedure without the fear of losing their job or being discriminated against," the Wisconsin congressman added.

Rep. Chris Smith, co-chair of the House Pro-Life Caucus, said, “We’re simply asking President Obama to ensure that his deeds match his words."

If he believes in protecting conscience rights, Smith called on Obama to “simply stop all your efforts, and those of your Administration, to rescind the current conscience regulations that protect the fundamental right to pro-life healthcare workers — and Catholic Hospitals — to refuse to participate in procedures that they find morally reprehensible.

In 2008, the Bush administration issued a rule that prohibited recipients of federal money from discriminating against doctors, nurses and health care aides who refuse to take part in medical procedures towhich they have religious or moral objections.

The rule implemented existing conscience protection laws that ensure medical professionals cannot be denied employment because they do not want to provide abortions.

Although federal law has long forbidden discrimination against health care professionals who refuse to perform abortions or provide referrals for them, the regulation required institutions that get federal funding to certify their compliance with laws protecting conscience rights.

It also promoted education within the medical community regarding their rights and provided an avenue of recourse in the event of discrimination through the Office of Civil Rights within HHS.

At the end of February, the Obama administration announced it began “reviewing” the regulations implementing conscience laws, the first step toward rescinding the rule altogether.

Congressman John Fleming, a Louisiana Republican and physician, also attended the press conference with Smith and Sensenbrenner.

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