(CNSNews.com) – Medical students and an abortionist-turned-pro-life-activist are trying to raise awareness about the discrimination that pro-life students face at many medical schools around the country.
They say the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services made the situation worse last month, when it rescinded some of the conscience-protection regulations put in place by the Bush administration.
The group Medical Students for Life of America ended its cross-country tour at George Washington University in the nation's capital on Wednesday.
“Across the country, we encountered countless students who feel passionately about promoting a culture of life in medicine and want to implement the ‘do no harm’ oath as a physician,” former abortion-provider Dr. John Bruchalski said in a commentary about the tour. “Unfortunately, they have been backed into a corner, unable to discuss their beliefs publicly for fear of being shut out of medical admissions or residency programs.”
“We spoke with students who were unable to get an interview (or) even consideration for admission into medical schools because their pro-life views became known,” Bruchalski said.
The tour, which stopped at some of the nation’s top medical schools, including Harvard Medical School, Boston University School of Medicine, and Mayo Medical School, was also staged to highlight HHS’s final rule issued on Feb. 18, the “Regulation for the Enforcement of Federal Health Care Conscience Protections.”
Although the new HHS rule left the protections for abortion in place, HHS rescinded some of the 2008 regulations covering contraceptives, citing that “contraceptive services has never been defined as abortion in federal statute” and because it “had the potential to negatively impact patient access to contraception and certain other medical services without a basis in federal conscience protection statutes.”
The new rule also stated that the old regulation could limit access to other medical services, including unnamed “emergency services.”
The final rule states that the old regulation could limit “access to reproductive health services and information, including contraception, and could impact a wide range of medical services, including care for sexual assault victims, provision of HIV/AIDS treatment, and emergency services.”
Pro-life medical students and health care professionals say this does not afford them protection from promoting or providing contraceptives and other medical procedures that they believe can cause abortion.
“In a medical field that is broken and with the future of our new health care system uncertain, this issue of conscience protections is especially critical for healthcare delivery to Americans -- by reducing conscience rights, we reduce health care access by slashing the numbers of life-respecting medical professionals who no longer in many cases have the legal right to opt-out of procedures deemed unethical by their well-formed consciences,” Dominique Monlezun, national coordinator for Medical Students for Life, said in a statement the organization released about the tour.
Bruchalski, who operates a pro-life health care center in northern Virginia, said he gave up performing abortions after seeing how women were hurt by the procedure.
“My subjective experience with patients showed me that abortion devastated women's lives -- it did not bring health or wholeness,” Bruchalski told CNSNews.com in an e-mail.
Bruchalski said that as a physician he could reach people with the message of the sanctity of life by creating an atmosphere where abortion becomes unwanted and every child is welcomed into the world.
“We will transform hearts through health care,” he said.
Kristan Hawkins, executive director of Students for Life of America and Medical Students for Life of America, said it is vital to encourage future pro-life medical professionals.
“The Bioethics Symposium and Tour is critical for the future of the country,” Hawkins said. “These students are targeted not only by pro-abortion administrators, but also from the federal government now.”
“Pro-life medical students need the support and training necessary to promote and protect all human life as future medical professionals,” she said.
Medical Students for Life of America has written a letter to HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius requesting a formal meeting to discuss the protection regulation and the future of faith-based medical professionals.
“Driving faith-based and conscience-minded professionals out of medicine would strand hundreds of thousands of patients, especially those in rural vicinities who rely on only a few doctors in their communities,” the letter states.