Obama’s Weakening Conscience Rights Could Hurt Pregnancy Centers

National   |   Steven Ertelt   |   Feb 23, 2011   |   12:15PM   |   Washington, DC

President Barack Obama’s decision to overturn some of the conscience protections President George W. Bush put into place hurts medical professionals and could also pose problems for pregnancy centers.

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 to which 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 assist in abortions.

On Friday, the Obama administration rescinded part of the protectionswith the Health and Human Services Department scrapping a portion of the rule, which it called “unclear and potentially overbroad in scope.”

Care Net president Melinda Delahoyde told LifeNews.com on Tuesday that her network of 1,130 pregnancy center affiliates could feel the damaging blow of this action.

“Pregnancy centers empower women facing unplanned pregnancy to choose abortion alternatives,” Delahoyde said. “To accomplish this, we offer critical, free medical services, such as limited obstetrical ultrasounds and STD testing.”

“Because of our commitment to providing alternatives to abortion, we rely on the availability of pro-life medical professionals – nurses, physicians, sonographers and others.  If the rights of these individuals are violated, then they will simply leave the field of practice or not enter it altogether. With more than 580 pregnancy centers in the Care Net network that offer medical services, we’re simply not willing to take that risk,” she explained.

Delahoyde said the net result of the decision “is that much of the original purpose and intent behind the Bush regulations has been gutted, leaving a document that does not clearly ensure the protection of conscience rights for all healthcare workers in every instance.”

“Our nation’s physicians, nurses, and other healthcare providers have the right to practice medicine without violating their conscience. Removing these protections may ultimately have the impact of removing these individuals of integrity from the field of medicine entirely,” Delahoyde said.  “That’s not an action that we as Americans are willing to accept.”

The new Obama regulation with fewer protections goes into effect in 30 days.

Reacting to the decision, Dr. J. Scott Ries, speaking for the 16,000-member Christian Medical Association, protested what he called a decision to “weaken the only federal regulation protecting the exercise of conscience in health care.”

“The administration has made changes in a vital civil rights regulation without evidence or justification,” he told LifeNews.com. “The administration presented no evidence of any problems in healthcare access, prescriptions or procedures that have occurred in the two years since the original regulation’s enactment that would justify any change in this protective regulation.”

Ries continued: “The administration, for example, contends that a rule change is necessary to protect access to contraception, but absolutely no evidence is presented to justify any such concern. In the process, the administration blatantly ignores the scientific evidence that certain controversial prescriptions that abortion advocates promote as contraception are actually potential abortifacients, ending the life of a living, developing human embryo. This is a critical concern for pro-life patients, healthcare professionals and institutions.”