Removing the right to exercise conscience in medicine and health
care sounds so extreme, most Americans don’t believe it’s a serious
possibility.

Time’s about up to figure out what you think, and have any say about it. The comment deadline is midnight, April 9.

Freedom2Care wants you to be informed and engaged.

Here’s what’s been happening:

In August 2008, the U.S. Dept. of Health and Human Services (HHS)
took long-overdue action to address a growing crisis of
abortion-related discrimination that could force thousands of
conscientious healthcare professionals out of medicine. After several
months of public comment on its proposed regulation, in December 2008
HHS finalized a regulation that made clear the protections offered by
three civil rights laws passed by Congress with bipartisan support.

The civil rights laws declare that American tax dollars will not
fund programs in which healthcare professionals are fired, penalized or
otherwise subjected to discrimination because of their ethical stance
related to abortion and other morally controversial issues.

However, in March 2009, following protests from abortion special
interest groups, the new administration officially declared plans to
rescind–get rid of–the conscience-protecting regulation. The
administration has, as required by law, called for public comment on
the proposed plan to get rid of the conscience-protecting regulation,
with a deadline of April 9, 2009.

They’re required to give citizens a window of time for public
comment. Has Health & Human Services already decided to do
this? Can the public comments make a difference?

The US Bishops are accepting, in good faith, the government’s call for comments, and they’ve collectively taken a stand.
This HHS proposal will reverse three federal laws protecting the
conscience rights of health care providers, especially those at risk of
being discriminated against because of their moral or religious
objection to abortion. The bishops urge Catholics to speak out to
protect Catholic doctors, nurses and hospitals. Consider:

Allowing health care providers to serve the public
without violating their consciences protects and enhances access to
health care, by ensuring continued participation by some of our most
dedicated health professionals. Catholic and other faith-based
providers are specially called to serve the poorest and most
vulnerable, from the inner city to remote rural areas – if they are
driven away, who will replace them?

Cardinal Francis George has answered that, by stating the ultimatum this plan proposes.

“People understand what really happens in an abortion
and in related procedures — a living member of the human family is
killed — … and no one should be forced by the government to act as
though he or she were blind to this reality.”

If conscience protection goes, conscientious medicine goes. And the federal government will fill that void. Perish the thought.

Sheila Liaugminas

Sheila Liaugminas is an Emmy award-winning Chicago-based journalist in print and broadcast media. Her writing and broadcasting covers matters of faith, culture, politics and the media....