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Obama and Conscience Protections

July 2, 2009, 3:57 pm | Posted by Beth Dahlman

In a meeting with religion reporters this afternoon, President Obama emphasized his commitment to robust conscience exemptions for healthcare providers. As we’ve blogged about before, the U.S. has a number of conscience protections that have been in existence for many years, ensuring that doctors aren’t required to perform abortions if they are morally or religiously opposed to the procedure. What President Obama rescinded was a midnight-hour Bush administration regulation, which only went into effect in January 2009 and was problematically vague in scope.

Family Research Council seems determined to muddy the facts on this and other public health matters (like funding for abortion). In the past, FRC has implied that health care reform legislation would force health care professionals to perform abortions against their will, saying:

While the administration would force you to pay for abortions, it also leaves relatively no options for those faced with having to perform or promote them. The current plan lacks any clear conscience protections for medical workers, leaving the health care field exposed to even greater attacks. If the bill refuses to address the freedom of conscience, more of our doctors, nurses, and pharmacists will be forced to choose between their convictions and their careers.

This is blatantly false… there are clear conscience protections for medical workers already codified in U.S. law, and no one has proposed changing those conscience exemptions. No doctors will be forced to perform abortions against their will. Hopefully, President Obama’s remarks today will help knock down false claims to the contrary.

FRC seems to be sliding into slippery territory here–making vague assertions about medical providers’ “careers,” rather than explicitly telling us what procedures or scenarios would lead to this forced choice between “convictions” and “careers.” We have a hunch that’s because they know abortion is protected. If they’re referring to contraception, end-of-life treatment, or blood transfusions (some of the troubling services potentially affected by the midnight-hour Bush administration regulation), they sure aren’t being very clear. And particularly when it comes to contraception, their efforts would be counterproductive to the important attempts to reduce the need for abortion in this country.

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