Some Pro-Life Doctors Could Quit if Obama Removes Abortion Conscience Laws

National   |   Steven Ertelt   |   Jul 6, 2009   |   9:00AM   |   WASHINGTON, DC

Some Pro-Life Doctors Could Quit if Obama Removes Abortion Conscience Laws

by Steven Ertelt Editor
July 6
, 2009

Washington, DC ( — If President Barack Obama follows through on his promise to overturn the protections the Bush administration put in place to protect pro-life doctors, some physicians could quit the medical practice entirely. That would ultimately hurt Americans’ access to health care when Obama is promoting reform.

Obama plans to revoke the regulations that provide better enforcement and awareness of existing laws that protect medical professionals from being forced to do or be involved in abortions.

To Dr. David Stevens, the director of the Christian Medical Association, that’s a problem.

CMA’s own internal survey shows "90 percent of those surveyed said they will quit their practices before violating their conscience," Stevens said about the potential to be forced into participating in an abortion.

If Obama follows through on his promise, it "sends a clear message: It’s open season on health care professionals of conscience — discriminate at will."

Joxel Garcia, assistant secretary for health in the Bush administration and who helped write the new regulations, told NPR that they are necessary because so few health care workers know the laws exist.

The regulations give medical professionals "a mechanism to seek help" through the Department of Health and Human Services when they face employment discrimination for not doing abortions.

He said he had not heard of the laws when he became a medical resident in obstetrics and gynecology in the late 1980s.
"I didn’t know at that time that those facilities that were receiving federal funds were not supposed to discriminate against me because I did not perform terminations of pregnancy or abortions," he said.

Obama said in an interview as recently as last week that he favors a conscience clause.

Obama tried to "dispel the worst" about what pro-life advocates say about his attempts to overturn the additional pro-life conscience protections President Bush put in place.

"Well, I think that the only reason that my position may appear unclear is because it came in the wake of a last-minute, 11th-hour change in conscience clause provisions that were pushed forward by the previous administration that we chose to reverse," Obama said.

"But my underlying position has always been consistent, which is I’m a believer in conscience clauses. I was a supporter of a robust conscience clause in Illinois for Catholic hospitals and health care providers," Obama added.

Although he supports a conscience clause, making health workers aware of the laws and giving them support form the federal government to defend themselves may be something else entirely.

For pro-life doctors facing pressure on the job, a conscience clause is no good without the support from the government to use it and to hold taxpayer-funded medical centers accountable when they break them.

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