Obama Admin Defends Dropping Doctors’ Conscience Protections

National   |   Steven Ertelt   |   May 10, 2011   |   2:01PM   |   Washington, DC

In a letter to several pro-life groups complaining about President Barack Obama’s decision to drop some of the conscience protections for medical professionals, the administration is defending the decision.

Several pro-life groups sent a letter to HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius warning her of the alarming effects on patients that will follow the Obama administration’s recent move to strip the medical community of key conscience protections on abortion.

As LifeNews.com reported in February, the Obama administration overturned some of the conscience protections the Bush administration put in place to protect pro-life medical workers who don’t want to be involved in certain medical procedures. The administration rescinded part of the protections by removing protections for medical workers who have moral or religious objections to dispensing or giving to women the Plan B drug or other emergency contraception that could act in some cases as an abortion drug.

The Christian Medical Association, Catholic Medical Association, the American Association of Pro-Life Obstetricians and Gynecologists (AAPLOG), and Medical Students for Life sent a joint letter to Sebelius. The letter requested that HHS extend conscience protections to medical providers who cannot, due to moral principles, prescribe and dispense emergency contraception or participate in in vitro fertilization procedures because abortion could be involved in cases of multiple pregnancies.

Georgina Verdugo responded to them on behalf of the HHS Department and said the final rule the Obama administration issued revoking the conscience protection explained “the provision of contraceptive services has never been defined as abortion in federal statute. There is no indication that the federal healthcare provider statutes intended that the term ‘abortion’ included contraception.”

“In addition, there is no indication that the federal conscience laws were intended to include in-vitro fertilization procedures,” Verdugo added.

Upon receipt of Health and Human Services’ response, Kristan Hawkins, the director of Students for Life of America, condemned the Obama administration for not defining the beginning of human life at conception — which would make it more sensitive to the concerns of medical professionals not wanting to be involved with drugs or procedures that could possible end human life in a similar way as an abortion.

“While the Obama administration may not define life as beginning at fertilization, many Americans and medical professionals do,” she told LifeNews. “Conscience rights should be extended to health care providers who refuse to participate in actions which terminate the life of a human being after fertilization. The current U.S. Department of Health and Human Services regulations are inadequate to protect those rights of conscience as abortifacient drugs like ella and Plan B are falling through the administration’s loophole.”

“This February, the Obama administration rescinded the right of conscience to dispense drugs labeled as contraceptives. This action forces pro-life medical professionals to prescribe ella, Plan B, and other life-ending drugs even if doing so is a direct violation of the professional’s conscience,” she said.

Hawkins cited the ella drug — billed as an emergency contraceptive but a pill that works to end the life of a unique human being days after conception — as an example of the kind of drug these doctors oppose.

“Ella was approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration in August of 2010 for sale within the United States. The pill is both a contraceptive and abortifacient, but the FDA chose only to label it as a contraceptive, deceiving millions of American women and forcing pro-life medical professionals to dispense the life-ending drug,” she said.

The HHS response comes as the Christian Medical Association (CMA) released new polling data on May 3rd showing that 77% of American adults believe that it is important to “make sure that health care professionals in America are not forced to participate in procedures and practices to which they have moral objections.” A poll released previously by CMA revealed that 62% opposed a revocation of the conscience protection rule for medical professionals.