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President Begins Overturning “Conscience Rule” for Pro-life Doctors

By Randy Sly
February 27th, 2009
Catholic Online (www.catholic.org)

President Obama used the attention given to his new budget to quietly undermine protection for pro-life medical professionals.

WASHINGTON, D.C. (Catholic Online) – President Obama quietly begun the process of overturning regulations that protect doctors and hospitals from being forced to perform or refer abortions. The Chicago Tribune reports that President Obama is directing the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) to begin overturning the conscience rule that protects medical providers who are pro-life.

This pullback comes only months after the Bush administration strengthened the rule by placing penalties on facilities that subject pro-life doctors, nurses, or other medical workers to discrimination over the issue of abortion.

As with his rescinding of the Mexico City policy a few weeks ago, this move by the President occurred with no fanfare. Instead, the initiative took place at the same time the budget was announced, which drew all the attention.

The administration is calling for a 30 day public comment period. "We believe that this is a complex issue that requires a thoughtful process where all voices can be heard," said one official, who was not authorized to speak on the record, told the Chicago Tribune.

Care Net President Melinda Delahoyde responded to the news by saying, "Our nation's physicians, nurses, and other healthcare providers have the right to practice medicine without violating their conscience.”

To remove these protections is to ultimately remove these individuals of integrity from the field of medicine entirely," Delahoyde said. "That's not an action that we as Americans should be willing to accept."

Care Net, which operates 470 Pro-life Pregnancy Centers and has over 1,100 affiliates nationwide, has also filed as an intervener in a lawsuit filed by state attorney generals and Planned Parenthood that challenges the federal regulations protecting the right of conscience.

Currently pro-abortion groups in seven states have filed suit to topple the conscience rule. Today’s action illustrates that the President himself is intending to overturn it.

When the rule was strengthened last year, HHS Secretary Mike Leavitt stated that there was a need to address the issue of discrimination in the healthcare industry regarding abortion.

In referring to the need for a stronger conscience rule, he criticized "an environment in the health-care field that is intolerant of individual conscience, certain religious beliefs, ethnic and cultural traditions and moral convictions."

The White House indicated that the move by the President was for the purpose of making the rule clearer. The intention is to craft a new rule that will clarify what medical professionals can reasonably refuse their patients.

Catholic Online will continue to monitor the situation as well as update where and how individuals and groups may participate during the period of public comment.

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Randy Sly is the Associate Editor and Home and Family Editor of Catholic Online.

Article brought to you by: Catholic Online (www.catholic.org)