Administration Rescinding Bush Rule on “Conscience” for Doctors and
Health Care Providers
The pro-abortion administration of President Barack Obama has begun the process of rescinding a regulation that enforces federal laws protecting the conscience rights of doctors and health care providers. The Washington Post and the New York Times were among the first to report that the first step was taken February 27 when the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) announced that it was “reviewing a proposal to lift the controversial ‘conscience’ regulation.” There is a 30-day public comment period once the OMB reviews the proposal and publishes it in the Federal Register.
The Post also reported that an official with the Health and Human Services Department, which drafted the rule change, explicitly said, “We are proposing rescinding the Bush rule” [referring to pro-life President George W. Bush].
Issued by the Bush Administration, this regulation was designed to raise awareness in the medical community and the general public, as well as to increase compliance with federal laws protecting doctors and health care providers from discrimination in federally funded health care programs. Health care providers are increasingly being pressured to violate their moral convictions with regard to abortion.
The regulations are based on underlying federal conscience protection laws that Congress has enacted, including the 1973 “Church Amendments,” the 1996 Public Health Service Act amendment, and the “Hyde-Weldon amendment,” which was first added to a funding bill in 2004.
Susan Muskett, J.D., senior legislative counsel of the National Right to Life Committee, said, “These conscience protection regulations were carefully crafted by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services after soliciting public comments and a lengthy period of review. Once again, the Obama Administration is doing the bidding of pro-abortion advocacy groups, which wish to penalize health-care providers who refuse to participate in providing abortions.”
Although rescinding this federal regulation does not repeal the underlying federal laws, pro-abortion advocacy groups have targeted the Hyde-Weldon law for repeal. “No one should be forced to take a human life against their moral convictions, especially not in a federally funded program,” Muskett said.
David Stevens, CEO of the Christian Medical Association, pointedly criticized the proposal. “The move to rescind the healthcare provider conscience regulation imperils women’s healthcare access, threatens healthcare professionals’ freedom to practice medicine according to ethical standards, and exposes the myth of moderation in Obama’s abortion policy,” he said in a statement.
“The Obama administration claims, without offering a shred of statistical evidence, that the regulation has ‘created confusion’ and will somehow hinder access to healthcare,” Stevens continued. “What can be clearer than not using federal funds to force healthcare professionals to violate longstanding principles of medical ethics like the Hippocratic Oath, which guided medicine for over two millennia? The real threat to healthcare access is driving out every healthcare professional who conscientiously practices medicine according to life-affirming ethical standards.”
Stevens also noted, “An informal survey of our members showed that over 40 percent report being pressured to violate ethical standards. Physicians report losing positions and promotions because of their life-affirming views. Residents report losing training privileges because they refused to do abortions. Medical students report changing career tracks away from obstetrics for fear of pressure to do abortions. The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists has officially asserted that it expects every obstetrician to participate in abortions, either through procedure or referral.
“We hear a lot of rhetoric from abortion advocates about the government not interfering with the physician-patient relationship. Why is this argument no longer employed when the physician and the patient disagree with abortion on demand? It would appear that for all the abortion ‘choice’ rhetoric, ‘choice’ is really a one-way street. When it comes to pro-life individuals, abortion choice quickly turns into abortion mandate.”
Stevens concluded, “President Obama and other abortion advocates would like to maintain the myth of their moderation on abortion, talking much about ‘reducing the need for abortion.’ Yet they have no tolerance for moderate abortion policies like informing parents when their children seek an abortion, banning the essentially infanticidal partial-birth abortions, or protecting the civil rights of healthcare professionals who follow the Hippocratic Oath.”