President Donald Trump is reportedly considering issuing new protections for doctors who don’t want to perform abortions.
President George W Bush first issued conscience protections for pro-life doctors and other medical workers who did not want to participate in abortions. But President Barack Obama rescinded those protections and created a situation where pro-life medical workers and others who don’t want to be involved in abortions are pressured to do so.
Full details have not been released about the potential guidelines but online reports indicate the White House is reviewing the proposal from the Department of Health and Human Services to protect doctors and healthcare workers from being forced or pressured to perform abortions. Language will reportedly protect anyone who has a “moral objection” to involvement in an abortion because it kills an unborn child before birth.
Here is more on what President Trump is considering. As always, abortion activist threaten to sue to force doctors and nurses to participate in or perform abortions:
Under a proposed rule — which has been closely guarded at HHS and is now under review by the White House — the HHS office in charge of civil rights would be empowered to further shield these workers and punish organizations that don’t allow them to express their moral objections, according to sources on and off the Hill.
HHS did not respond to multiple requests for comment. However, HHS’ leaders have repeatedly criticized the Obama administration for rolling back regulations dating to the George W. Bush administration that legally insulated health care workers while affirming their religious freedoms.
Roger Severino, the Trump administration appointee who now leads the HHS civil rights office, has repeatedly stressed that strengthening conscience protections for health care workers is a top priority for his office.
The pending rule, which could be released as soon as this week, has been described to POLITICO as establishing a new “division” of the HHS civil rights office that would conduct compliance reviews, audits and other enforcement actions to ensure that health care providers are allowing workers to opt out of procedures when they have religious or moral objections.
The office would also conduct outreach and technical support to help others who are seeking to strengthen protections for these workers.
Patient groups and legal organizations vowed to challenge HHS if the agency strengthens conscience protections. “Should the administration choose to move forward to implement a discriminatory policy, we will see them in court,” Louise Melling of the American Civil Liberties Union said in a statement.
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But supporters of the conscience protections say the Obama administration left objecting workers out to dry, liable to be fired for refusing to assist in abortions.
“To be forced under pain of losing one’s job is just outrageous,” Rep. Chris Smith (R-N.J.), co-chairman of the Bipartisan Congressional Pro-Life Caucus, said last week. President Trump is “now looking to remedy that through the HHS mechanism — hasn’t happened yet, but it will.”
Obama 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 the Obama administration on behalf of their members complaining about the action.
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 at that time. “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.
After Obama rescinded the protections, the Christian Medical Association (CMA) released new polling data 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.