ACLU Has Major Misunderstanding of Abortion Conscience Law

Opinion   |   Matt Bowman   |   Mar 9, 2011   |   1:12PM   |   Washington, DC

Would it surprise anyone to find out that left-wing extremists believe that religious hospitals must perform abortions? 
This is what the ACLU has been trying to convince people to believe in its recent press releases. The latest attempt was the organization’s recent opposition to the Protect Life Act, H.R. 358, which protects conscience rights of pro-life health care providers.

The ACLU claims that protecting conscience rights violates federal law, but people familiar with the ACLU’s anti-religious record should not be surprised that the organization has the law completely upside down. In fact, federal law protects religious hospitals from compelled abortion performance, rather than forcing them to kill preborn children.

Religious hospitals, and health professionals generally, work to protect both the woman and her preborn child, including in high-risk pregnancies. The ACLU claims that federal laws governing emergency medicine and Medicaid compel pro-life religious hospitals to perform abortions where a risk exists to the mother.

But while the ACLU falsely claims that the only “patient” in a pregnancy situation is the mother, federal law explicitly declares that in an emergency situation hospitals must protect health including both “the woman or her unborn child.”

The ACLU is essentially advocating that hospitals kill one of the patients that the statute says must be protected.

Likewise, the ACLU insists that Medicaid rules require pro-life hospitals to perform abortions because those rules protect the right of women to request treatment. But the ACLU doesn’t acknowledge the next sentence in that law:

“This right must not be construed as a mechanism to demand the provision of treatment or services deemed medically unnecessary or inappropriate,” which is how many religious hospitals rightly view an action that targets the preborn patient.

The ACLU’s legal misrepresentation is even worse than that. Multiple federal laws explicitly insist that religious hospitals can’t be forced to perform abortions. The Church Amendment, endorsed enthusiastically in 1973 by none other than Sen. Ted Kennedy, D-Mass., explicitly prohibits the government or the courts from requiring hospitals that receive federal funds to perform abortions.

Every year Congress approves a similar law in its budgets that prohibits state and local governments funded by tax dollars from engaging in such anti-life compulsion.

These and other laws uphold America’s finest traditions of respecting religious freedom and thereby allow patients to access religious care providers who share their values. The irony of the ACLU’s anti-life and anti-religious agenda is that, if imposed, women would be deprived of the right to have their babies delivered by physicians who don’t do abortions, and the infirm would have no choice but see a doctor whom they can’t trust because he also prescribes lethal doses of chemicals as “medical care.”

The ACLU’s intolerant view would ultimately deprive poor, rural, and underserved patients of health care access that is already scarce — and that religious health providers perform excellently and self-sacrificially where no one else is available.

This is why the Alliance Defense Fund is working to defend conscience protections from the ACLU’s attacks around the country, such as in a lawsuit in Connecticut. ADF also has filed three complaints with the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services on behalf of health care workers who have either been forced or were required to pledge to assist in abortions in violation of federal law, but the ACLU has gone on record in favor of rescinding the very regulations that require HHS to enforce these laws as written.

Numerous members of the House have also sent a letter to Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius questioning why the Obama administration itself is also seeking to tear up the regulation that directs HHS to enforce the law passed by Congress.

But, as for the ACLU and its allies, it’s just a little too convenient for them to claim that federal law gives people a right to buy whatever the abortion industry happens to be selling when their interpretation also means driving all pro-life health care providers out of business.

America’s laws and tradition protect freedom for religion, not freedom from religion. Keep that in mind the next time the ACLU wants you to believe whatever its press releases assert. Note: Matt Bowman is an attorney with the Alliance Defense Fund, a national coalition of pro-life attorneys that defends pro-life free, speech, legislation and values.