Obama ‘Review’ Likely to Reverse Bush ‘Conscience’ Protections for Doctors, Health Workers

By Pete Winn | February 27, 2009 | 2:40 PM EST

President Barack Obama speaks about his fiscal 2010 federal budget, Thursday, Feb, 26, 2009, in the Eisenhower Executive Office Building on the White House campus in Washington. (AP Photo/Charles Dharapak)

(CNSNews.com) - The Obama administration announced Friday that it is “reviewing” the conscience clause that was implemented in the last months of the Bush administration – the first step toward rescinding the rule altogether.
The Health and Human Services regulation reinforces the right of health care workers to refuse to provide abortion and contraception if it violates their conscience or moral precepts.
The new administration’s move came at the request of several groups, including the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, which last fall called on Obama to rescind the regulation when he took office. The ACOG did not speak to CNSNews.com before press time.
But at the time the rule was announced, the organization said: “This HHS regulation places patients' rights directly behind the rights of ideologically driven physicians and anyone else directly or indirectly involved in their health care.”
Judie Brown, president of the pro-life American Life League, said the move was outrageous.
“It’s frightening, and it should be frightening to people of all stripes.” Brown said.
But both pro-lifers and abortion rights groups knew it was just a matter of time until Obama came through on his promises to the pro-abortion movement.
“It’s not surprising to anybody who is familiar with Obama’s basic philosophy,” Brown told CNSNews.com. He doesn’t want anything to stand in the way of child-killing, including a person’s right under the law to say, ‘No, I will not do that because it is unethical.’”
The new president, she said, has already rescinded the Mexico City Policy, which had kept federal taxpayers from subsidizing abortions internationally.
“Therefore, he will do this, in an effort to force people, especially Christians, into the untenable position of either having to provide an abortion, or get out of their profession,” Brown said. “This is just the next step. “
Susan Muskett, senior legislative counsel for the National Right to Life Committee, agreed the move was expected.
“This is just the next step in the expansive Obama abortion agenda we had foreseen coming down the road,” Muskett told CNSNews.com.
But Muskett said that the Department of Health and Human Services is being disingenuous by saying that there is a 30-day public comment period before the provision is scrapped.
“Last fall, the federal government spent four months gathering comments in its rule-making to protect the conscience rights of doctors and health care providers,” she told CNSNews.com. “It’s just a pretext for the administration now to assert that more comments need to be gathered with regard to this rule making.”
Jonathan Imbody of the Christian Medical and Dental Association told CNSNews.com that 40 percent of his group’s doctors have been pressured to compromise their ethical stands – and without conscience-protection, face the loss of professional certification if they don’t provide referrals to abortion-providers – or face being pressured out of the profession.
One OB/GYN, Dr. Vicki L. Duncan, who testified last fall, said she was pressured by her insurance provider to provide artificial insemination for a lesbian couple, or lose her coverage. 
"I contacted my malpractice carrier for legal advice, and was told that if I refused for them, but did so for a married, heterosexual couple, I would likely be sued, and they would not provide coverage. It also extended to a non-married couple. That was when I decided to no longer perform intrauterine inseminations,” Duncan said.
Brown is calling on pro-life lawmakers to take a stand.
“One would hope that the so-called pro-life members of Congress would stand up and find this totally unacceptable, and take whatever action is necessary to propose a new law that is veto proof, but that’s not going to happen, because we don’t have that kind of strength – or courage – in the Congress at this time,” Brown said. 
“Just based on logic and with a right-thinking mind, even pro-abortion people should be horrified because, what’s next? Are they doing to say there is no conscience protection for those wanting to object to going to war?”