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By Randy Sly

1/19/2010 (5 years ago)

Catholic Online (

Senatorial Candidate Martha Coakley objected to providing the right of conscience to health care professionals. The CMA responded with outrage.

'Running roughshod over conscience rights is not only wrong in principle; it will harm patients as faithful, ethical health-care providers are driven out of practice.'

'Running roughshod over conscience rights is not only wrong in principle; it will harm patients as faithful, ethical health-care providers are driven out of practice.'


By Randy Sly

Catholic Online (

1/19/2010 (5 years ago)

Published in Politics & Policy

WASHINGTON, D.C. (Catholic Online) - On Monday, the Catholic Medical Association (CMA) responded to statements made by Democratic Senatorial candidate Martha Coakley concerning respect for freedom of conscience rights for health care providers. Her comments were made during an interview on the Ken Pittman radio program out of New Bedford, MA on January 14.

Coakley faces a fierce battle for the senatorial seat formerly held by Ted Kennedy against Republican contender Scott Brown, who is now leading in some polls. However, the election is still too close to call.

"In the course of the interview, Martha Coakley demonstrated hostility to conscience rights in general, and to the beliefs of faithful Catholics in particular," stated John F. Brehany, Ph.D., S.T.L., executive director of the CMA.

Of course, the irony is obvious to any observer. Coakley claims to be a Catholic Christian. Yet, she seems to be one of those whom my good friend and Catholic Online Editor in Chief has called "Anti-Catholic Catholics". She denies the fundamental human right to life as revealed by the Natural Law, confirmed by medical science, and, taught infallibly by her own Church!

Under the constitutionally protected freedom of conscience clause, workers in health-care environments, whether they are doctors, nurses, even maintenance men, can refuse to offer services, information, or advice to patients regarding abortion contraception, blood transfusions, etc. if the workers are morally opposed to it.

During the program, Pittman brought up a question of whether Coakley would support healthcare legislation that removed such legal protection for the conscience clause.

Pittman stated on his website, "I chose this (question) based on her vitriolic campaign attack on Scott Brown's participation with a bill allowing medical people with religious principles to find another emergency room care provider to administer a pill or service to end the life of an unborn in the womb."

When asked if she would support federal legislation that protected the conscience rights of health care providers, Coakley replied, "I don't believe that would be included in the health care bill."

Moving on she stated that, "I would not pass a bill... to say that people who believe that they do not want to provide services required under the law and under Roe v. Wade that they can individually decide to not follow the law. The answer to that is no."

Another excerpt from the program follows:

Ken Pittman: "Right, if you are a Catholic, and believe what the Pope teaches that any form of birth control is a sin. Ah, you don't want to do that."
Martha Coakley: "No, we have a separation of church and state. Ken, let's be clear.
Ken Pittman: "In the emergency room you still have your religious freedom."
Martha Coakley: (......uh, "The law says that people are allowed to have that. You can have religious freedom but you probably shouldn't work in the emergency room."

According to Dr. Brehany, a faithful Catholic and outstanding medical professional, there are a couple of important things to notice about Coakley's comments.

"First," he noted, "Although much attention has been paid to Coakley's comments about 'working in the emergency room,' her comments reveal hostility to the rights of all medical providers regarding any procedure under the law.

"While it is true that focused attacks on conscience rights have centered on abortion and reproductive services, there is nothing to prevent advocacy groups from insisting that providers cooperate with euthanasia, assisted suicide, and any number of other unethical actions. Coakley specifically disagrees with objecting to any services 'required under the law and Roe v. Wade'."

"Second," Brehany commented, "Coakley's statements reveal a specific hostility to faithful Catholics. While some news stories of the interview have referred to 'devout Catholics' in the emergency room, the interviewer actually referenced Catholics who 'believe what the Pope teaches.' This is the definition of a real Catholic, not of only a "devout" Catholic.

"Coakley's dismissal of their faith and rights and is a shocking display of disrespect for members of one religion. Even on legal grounds, it is inadequate, as Matt Bowman of the Alliance defense fund has pointed out here."

When asked what Democrats would do with a Coakley win in the senatorial election on Tuesday, he stated, "They would take it as an endorsement of Obamacare, and the version of it, if you will, that we see emerging - number one, a huge Federal takeover of healthcare that is arguably unworkable, expensive, flawed and a huge entitlement expansion.

"Number two, an entitlement program that has been built on partisan secrecy and deal-making. The unions just got a deal worth $60 billion.

"And third, what looks like an evident disregard for the very serious religious and ethical objections that have been raised (such as) abortion and conscience rights.

"They will say, 'Well, hey, she stood up for insisting that people to follow the rule of law in Roe v. Wade; so we don't need to listen to the U.S. Bishops, we don't need to listen to Catholics, we don't need to listen to pro-life healthcare providers. We can do what we want."

Brehany observed that many Americans, particularly independent voters but even some Democratic voters are experiencing buyer's remorse, "thinking that Obama would be a pragmatic post-partisan candidate. He's nothing like that at all."

Brehany concluded, "This should be a wake-up call to all Catholics and even all health care providers. Conscience rights in medical practice are under attack as never before. People should demand legal protection of their human and constitutional rights in any new health care legislation.

"Running roughshod over conscience rights is not only wrong in principle; it will harm patients as faithful, ethical health-care providers are driven out of practice."

Founded in 1932, the Catholic Medical Association is the largest association of Catholic physicians in North America. For more information, go to


Randy Sly is the Associate Editor of Catholic Online. He is a former Archbishop of the Charismatic Episcopal Church who laid aside that ministry to enter into the full communion of the Catholic Church.


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