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Protection of Conscience Project

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News Releases: 2010

Becket Fund to provide free defense for religious hospitals against government-ordered abortions

The Becket Fund for Religious Liberty

20 August, 2010

In a letter on Thursday, August 19, 2010, The Becket Fund for Religious Liberty threatened to sue the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) if it tried to force religiously affiliated hospitals to perform abortions against the conscientious objections of their doctors and nurses. The Becket Fund wrote to HHS in response to an ACLU letter which pressures HHS into forcing religiously affiliated hospitals across this country to perform abortions.  After sending the letter, the ACLU called on its multi-thousand membership to mount a letter campaign to demand abortion services at Catholic hospitals.

"We will represent, pro bono, any religious hospital or its personnel that HHS threatens because of their conscientious objection to abortion," said Kevin "Seamus" Hasson, President of the Becket Fund. "And we will, if necessary, sue to block any such proposed policy."

The letter pointed out that conscience has been protected in the medical profession in this country since Roe v. Wade. It further argued that the ACLU misinterprets the Emergency Medical Treatment and Active Labor Act ("EMTALA"), a law initially designed in part to protect the conscience rights of healthcare workers, and in doing so, overturns 25 years of caselaw.

"The ACLU has no business radically re-defining the meaning of 'emergency health care,'" writes Becket Fund President Kevin "Seamus" Hasson.  "Just as it has no business demanding that religious doctors and nurses violate their faith by performing a procedure they believe is tantamount to murder. Forcing religious hospitals to perform abortions not only undermines this nation's integral commitment to conscience rights, it violates the numerous federal laws that recognize and protect those rights."

Forcing Catholic or any religiously-affiliated hospital to perform abortions will only result in nationwide closures, thereby reducing access to healthcare for everyone, a blow the healthcare system could not weather. Legally forcing doctors and nurses to perform abortions in violation of their consciences would constitute a large step backwards for religious freedom and would turn this nation's foundational commitment to conscience rights on its head.

For more information or to arrange an interview, please contact Montserrat Alvarado at or call 202.590.6966.

The Becket Fund for Religious Liberty is a non-profit public interest law firm headquartered in Washington, D.C. The Becket Fund defends religious freedom for people of all faiths. Its clients have included Buddhists, Christians, Hindus, Jews, Muslims, Sikhs, and Zoroastrians. Becket Fund attorneys are recognized as experts in the field of church-state law.

Patients' health, pharmacists' conscience protected in Wash., court agrees to halt trial
ADF-allied attorneys secure stay after state agrees to reverse course, act in best interests of both patients and pharmacists

Alliance Defence Fund

For immediate release

14 July, 2010

TACOMA, Wash. - Attorneys allied with the Alliance Defense Fund secured a stay order from a federal court Monday that halts legal proceedings against pharmacists on trial for their conscience. The court issued the stay after the state pharmacy board agreed to propose revisions to its rules to allow what the pharmacists have sought from the beginning: to be allowed to refer patients seeking drugs that risk taking human life to other pharmacies. For three years, the Washington State Department of Health has been attempting to force pharmacists to sell such drugs against their conscience.

ADF and allied attorneys filed the lawsuit in 2007 to safeguard the rights of pharmacists and pharmacies against state regulations that forced them to stock or distribute the drugs.  The new regulations will protect conscience rights while also benefitting patients by mandating that all referrals are "facilitated," which means, in part, that pharmacies will help patients find a provider that stocks and dispenses the drug they are seeking.

"Pharmacists and other healthcare workers shouldn't be punished for looking out for their patients' health--and for abiding by their beliefs," said ADF Senior Legal Counsel Steven H. Aden. "The pharmacy board was right in determining that facilitated referrals work to protect the patients' best interests and that, at the same time, pro-life pharmacists shouldn't be forced to violate their conscience. This is a win-win situation."

"Patients are true winners here," said Kristen Waggoner of the Seattle-based law firm Ellis, Li & McKinstry, PLLC, and one of nearly 1,800 attorneys in the ADF alliance. "The new rules should ensure that customers receive prescribed drugs in the most efficient manner possible while at the same time respecting the conscience rights of pharmacists, who should never be forced to participate in the risk of destroying human life just to be able to preserve their professional licenses."

In a stipulation, the state attorney general told the court that the pharmacy board intends to create new rules that respect conscience rights and also noted "that facilitated referrals are often in the best interest of patients, pharmacies, and pharmacists" because they "help assure timely access to lawfully prescribed medications."

In 2007, ADF and allied attorneys filed the suit Stormans v. Selecky with the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Washington, which later issued a preliminary injunction against the state regulations.

Washington State Department of Health officials of the injunction, and the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit set it aside even though the State Board of Pharmacy itself had determined that no evidence existed to show that anyone in the state had been denied access to the "Plan B" drug (or any other time-sensitive medication) due to religious conscience concerns.

ADF is a legal alliance of Christian attorneys and like-minded organizations defending the right of people to freely live out their faith. Launched in 1994, ADF employs a unique combination of faith. Launched in 1994, ADF employs a unique combination of strategy, training, funding, and litigation to protect and preserve religious liberty, the sanctity of life, marriage, and the family.

Washington State Capitulates, Recognizes Pharmacists' Conscience Rights

The Becket Fund for Religious Liberty

7 July,2010

This afternoon, less than two weeks before the start of a civil rights trial in Tacoma federal court, attorneys for the State of Washington told a federal judge that the State would seek to create new rules for pharmacists with conscientious objections. The new regulations would give the plaintiffs in the lawsuit--the owners of Ralph's Thriftway pharmacy and two pharmacists--what they've wanted all along: the right to refuse to stock or dispense Plan B (the so-called "morning after pill") based on their conscientious objection.

This is an enormous about-face for the State, which has for several years maintained that it had to restrict the religious freedoms of pharmacies and pharmacists in order to ensure patient access to the morning after pill. In its filing today, however, the State concedes that allowing pharmacists with conscientious objections to refer patients to other pharmacies "is a time-honored pharmacy practice" that is "often in the best interest of patients, pharmacies, and pharmacists" and "do[es] not pose a threat to timely access to lawfully prescribed medications." Based on the State's representations, the Plaintiffs have agreed to allow the trial to be postponed while the Washington State Board of Pharmacy undertakes its rule-making process.  Washington State is capitulating less than a month after The Becket Fund for Religious Liberty helped Plaintiffs defeat Washington's motion for summary judgment.

"This sends a clear signal to Governor Christine Gregoire that her bullying tactics are not acceptable. First she threatened to fire the members of the State Board of Pharmacy if they did not agree with her; then, she tried to pressure the pharmacy by joining a boycott against Ralph's Thriftway," said Eric Rassbach, National Director of Litigation for the Becket Fund for Religious Liberty. "It may come as a surprise to her, but conscientious and principled people like the owners and pharmacists of Ralph's Thriftway are the backbone of this country."

The controversy began in 2006 when the State Board of Pharmacy unanimously supported a rule protecting conscience for pharmacy workers. The Board voted in favor of a regulation allowing pharmacists with religious objections to refrain from dispensing Plan B and to refer patients to nearby suppliers. Governor Gregoire soon learned about the protection, publicly threatened to fire the Board's members, and even called them late at night to lobby them. Matters escalated when the State's Human Rights Commission insinuated that Board members could be held personally liable under gender discrimination laws if they supported the regulation.

Buckling under these pressures, the Board decided to reconsider the issue and instead adopted new language mandating pharmacies to stock and dispense the medication even when doing so violates their conscience. The Board adopted this regulation even though it admitted it found no evidence that anyone in the state had ever been unable to obtain Plan B (or any other time-sensitive medication) due to religious objections. The Becket Fund's clients, a family owned pharmacy and two individual pharmacists, filed suit to prevent the new regulation from forcing them out of their profession.

 "Americans should not be forced out of their professions solely because of their religious beliefs--but that is exactly what Washington State sought to do," said Luke Goodrich, legal counsel at The Becket Fund. "The government should accommodate and protect the fundamental rights of all members of the medical profession, not punish some members because of their religious beliefs."

Legal Voice, a group that intervened in the case to defend the regulations, has already decried Washington's change, calling it an "outrage."

The Becket Fund represents the plaintiffs along with Kristin Waggoner and Steven O'Ban of the Seattle firm Ellis, Li & McKinstry, PLLC.

Based in Washington, D.C., The Becket Fund for Religious Liberty is a nonpartisan public-interest law firm dedicated to protecting the free expression of all religious traditions.

For more information or to arrange an interview with one of the attorneys, email Kristina Arriaga, at or call cell 703.582.8962

The Becket Fund is also fighting for healthcare workers' conscience rights at the federal level, opposing an Obama Administration proposal to eliminate a regulation that protects those conscience rights. The regulation, which went into effect on January 20, 2009, protects health care workers who want to opt out of performing procedures or dispensing medications that would violate the ir conscience. On April 8, 2009, The Becket Fund submitted a response that provides a detailed history of conscientious objection and the legal and historical support for the right of conscience in the health care profession. The Becket Fund also wrote an op-ed for the Washington Times on conscience clauses, authored by Founder Seamus Hasson and Legal Counsel Luke Goodrich.

The Becket Fund for Religious Liberty is a non-profit public interest law firm headquartered in Washington, D.C. The Becket Fund defends religious freedom for people of all faiths. Its clients have included Buddhists, Christians, Hindus, Jews, Muslims, Sikhs, and Zoroastrians. Becket Fund attorneys are recognized as experts in the field of church-state law.

NY nurse forced to participate in abortion files additional suit against Mt. Sinai Hospital
 ADF attorneys file state lawsuit alongside ongoing federal suit

ADF Media Relations | 480-444-0020

Thursday, April 29, 2010, 12:00 AM (MST)

NEW YORK - Alliance Defense Fund attorneys filed a lawsuit Friday against Mt. Sinai Hospital in New York state court on behalf of a nurse forced to participate in a late-term abortion procedure under threat of disciplinary action, including possible termination and loss of her license. The state suit was filed in addition to pro-life nurse Cathy Cenzon-DeCarlo's federal lawsuit, which is on appeal, because her rights of conscience are also protected by New York law.

"Pro-life nurses shouldn't be forced to assist in abortions against their beliefs," said ADF Legal Counsel Matt Bowman. "It is illegal, unethical, and a violation of Cathy's rights of conscience as a devout Catholic to require her to participate in terminating the life of a 22-week pre-born child. It was not only wrong, it was needless."

Administrators at Mt. Sinai Hospital threatened DeCarlo with disciplinary measures in May 2009 if she did not honor a last-minute summons to assist in a scheduled late-term abortion. Despite the fact that the patient was apparently not in crisis at the time of the surgery, the hospital insisted on her participation in the procedure on the grounds that it was an "emergency," even though the procedure was not classified by the hospital as such. The hospital has known of the Catholic nurse's religious objections to abortion since 2004.

In the newly filed state suit, ADF attorneys allege that Mt. Sinai is violating state conscience laws, as well as state laws against religious employment discrimination and intentionally inflicting emotional distress on an individual-along with five other claims based on DeCarlo's coerced participation in the abortion.

"An individual's conscience is often what brings health care workers into the medical field," said lead counsel Joseph Ruta, one of more than 1,600 attorneys in the ADF alliance. "Denying or coercing their conscience will likely drive them right out."

ADF attorneys filed the state lawsuit Cenzon-DeCarlo v. Mt. Sinai Hospital with the Kings County Supreme Court.

ADF attorneys filed the federal suit in July 2009, claiming Mt. Sinai ignored federal laws prohibiting such coercion while receiving hundreds of millions of dollars in federal funding. Mt. Sinai responded by saying Cenzon-DeCarlo had no right to sue. ADF attorneys also sent a letter in March urging the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services to take action against the hospital for its unlawful coercive treatment of DeCarlo.

ADF is a legal alliance of Christian attorneys and like-minded organizations defending the right of people to freely live out their faith.  Launched in 1994, ADF employs a unique combination of strategy, training, funding, and litigation to protect and preserve religious liberty, the sanctity of life, marriage, and the family.   

Women and Medical Professionals Ask Court to Intervene in Federal Case to Protect the Right to Conscience

Advocates International

22 March, 2010

HARTFORD, Conn., March 22 /Christian Newswire/ -- Representing Concerned Women for America, America's largest women's advocacy group and four other groups of pro-life medical professionals, attorneys with Advocates International filed a joint motion to lift stay and at last permit their intervention in three lawsuits commenced on January 15, 2009 that seek to invalidate a final federal regulation protecting medical professionals from discrimination because they refuse to participate in abortions. Advocates International is seeking to defend the law against challenges by some state officials, Planned Parenthood, and the National Family Planning and Reproductive Health Association, represented by the American Civil Liberties Union. A stay of the action was issued last year by the Court when the pro-abortion Obama Administration issued its notice of rulemaking to rescind that regulation year ago and also asked the court for time to consider whether it shouldn't rescind the challenged regulation that denies federal funding to any federal grantee who discriminates against any health care providers for exercising their constitutionally and statutorily protected rights of conscience.

"As we face the most pro-abortion Congress and administration in American history seeking to fund abortion in healthcare, medical professionals can no longer depend on government to protect their rights not to be forced to perform abortions against their conscience. Despite the well-established laws protecting the health care right of conscience, Planned Parenthood, the ACLU, and their pro-abortion allies are now receiving the cooperation of the Obama administration as they again seek to punish pro-life medical professionals for their beliefs," said Samuel B. Casey, General Counsel of Advocates International's Law of Life Project. "Our clients are opposing these lawsuits because they wrongfully seek to compel health care workers to perform abortions against their ethical and professional judgment or face dire consequences."

"For over three decades, federal law has prohibited recipients of federal grants from forcing medical professionals to participate in abortions. The arguments in the lawsuits themselves demonstrate lack of compliance with these laws and the necessity of the fair non-discrimination Health and Human Services (HHS) regulations these pro-abortion groups are challenging," said attorney Howard Wood, of Manchester who is assisting as Advocates International's lead local counsel in the case.

On behalf of Concerned Woman for America (CWA), Christian Pharmacists Fellowship International, Care Net, Heartbeat International and the New Jersey Physicians Resource Council, Advocates International attorneys, are asking to be allowed to intervene and defend the law, 45 CFR Part 88, enacted in December 2008 by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. Noting a pattern of grant recipients unaware of or flouting existing laws protecting medical professionals' rights of conscience, HHS enacted the new law to require grantees to certify compliance with them in order to receive funds. The three long-standing statutes are the Church Amendment, the Coats-Snowe Amendment, and the Weldon Amendment.

Many of the plaintiffs challenging the HHS law in this case failed in previous efforts to have the Weldon Amendment struck down.

Most of the clients represented by Advocates International filed testimony in support of their intervention motion pointing out that denying rights of conscience could harm access to healthcare for all by forcing medical professionals who refuse to perform abortions to either relocate from jurisdictions that force them to do so or leave the profession altogether.


Samuel B. Casey, Advocates International, 703-624-4092

Advocates International is an international organization of attorneys in over 150 nations who seek to do justice with compassion, including through its Global Task Forces on the Law of Life and Religious Freedom protecting the right of health care professionals not to perform or refer for elective abortions.

CMA physicians: Without strong conscience protections, bill imperils poor patients

Christian Medical Association

For Immediate Release
March 22, 2010 

Washington, DC, March 22, 2010--The nation's largest association of faith-based physicians, the 17,000-member Christian Medical Association (CMA), today lamented the passage of a sweeping healthcare overhaul bill that lacks strong conscience protections, saying the gap could lead to a crisis of health care for poor patients."

Millions of poor patients and those in medically underserved areas currently depend on care from faith-based hospitals, clinics and physicians who follow life-affirming ethical standards such as those found in the Hippocratic oath and the Judeo-Christian Scriptures," noted CMA CEO Dr. David Stevens.

"National polling reveals that 95 percent of faith-based physicians say they will be forced to leave medicine without conscience protections. Since the bill passed by Congress does not include strong conscience protections, it opens the door to an increase in discrimination against physicians, hospitals and clinics that decline to participate in abortion and other morally controversial procedures."

While several longstanding federal laws passed on a bipartisan basis over the past 35 years have offered strong conscience protections, President Obama has announced plans to rescind the only federal regulation that implements those laws. The Senate bill passed by the House on Sunday does not prohibit discrimination by the government or healthcare facilities against healthcare professionals who attempt to follow their conscience on abortion and other morally controversial procedures. The Senate had declined to pass a strong conscience-protecting amendment offered by one of its two physicians, Oklahoma Republican Tom Coburn.

Dr. Stevens added, "The last-minute deal for an Executive Order relating to abortion and conscience-the deal that changed the 'No' votes of pro-life Democrats to 'Yes'--was like trading a birthright for a mess of pottage. The executive order, which added no additional conscience protections whatsoever, can be changed tomorrow by this President, or later by any subsequent President, with the stroke of a pen. The healthcare bill, meanwhile, becomes permanent law."

CMA summarized its position on other aspects of the healthcare bill, including government funding of abortion, in a recent letter to Congress. CMA also coordinates the Freedom2Care coalition of 50 organizations supporting conscience rights in health care.

Contact: Margie Shealy
Telephone: 423-844-1047;

The Christian Medical Association is equipped with Ku Band Digital Uplink satellite and ISDN lines.

ADF, CLS focus attention on rights of conscience in health care battle
Letter, legal motions seek to protect health care workers from being forced to participate in abortions

Alliance Defence Fund

19 March, 2010

HARTFORD, Conn., and NEW YORK - In a busy week of debate in Washington over health care reform, attorneys with the Alliance Defense Fund are moving forward with efforts in four different lawsuits to ensure that conscience protections for health care workers are not ignored. ADF is working together with the Christian Legal Society's Center for Law & Religious Freedom in three of those efforts.

"Medical professionals should not be punished for holding to their beliefs, and they should not be forced to perform abortions against their conscience. It's imperative that the government not ignore protections for the men and women who save lives and provide healing to millions," said ADF Legal Counsel Casey Mattox.

ADF and CLS attorneys re-filed motions to intervene in three separate lawsuits Friday on behalf of three pro-life medical associations that wish to defend a federal law protecting health care workers from discrimination for refusing to participate in abortions. ADF attorneys also sent the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services a letter urging the department to enforce existing conscience regulations in the case of a New York nurse forced to assist in a late-term abortion. ADF filed a federal lawsuit on her behalf last year.

In 2009, ADF and CLS filed motions to intervene in National Family Planning & Reproductive Health Association v. Leavitt, Planned Parenthood of America v. Leavitt, and a third lawsuit in federal district court, where they are re-filing the stayed motions on all three suits. The third suit, Connecticut v. United States, was initiated by several state attorneys general, including Connecticut's Richard Blumenthal and Massachusetts' Martha Coakley, to tear down existing federal conscience protections. The other two suits, being litigated in part by Planned Parenthood and the American Civil Liberties Union, have been consolidated with the third suit.

ADF and CLS represent the Christian Medical Association, Catholic Medical Association, and American Association of Pro-Life Obstetricians and Gynecologists, all of which desire to intervene in the suits to defend 45 CFR Part 88, the conscience protections rule enacted in 2008 by HHS merely to enforce existing law. ADF and CLS attorneys argue that the lack of adequate conscience protections in President Obama's health care proposal and his expressed desire to rescind the rule make obvious the need for the organizations to intervene.

"These lawsuits aren't about 'choice' at all; they're about coercion," said ADF Legal Counsel Matt Bowman. "For more than three decades, federal law has prohibited federal grant recipients from forcing health care workers to assist in abortions. The arguments of the suits themselves prove the dire need for these protections."

ADF also sent a letter March 8 urging HHS to take action against New York's Mt. Sinai Hospital for forcing senior nurse Cathy Cenzon-DeCarlo to participate in a 22-week abortion under threat of her job and license. In July 2009, ADF filed suit on DeCarlo's behalf against the hospital, claiming it ignored federal laws prohibiting such coercion while receiving hundreds of millions of dollars in federal funding. Mt. Sinai claimed last August that DeCarlo had no right to defend herself in the lawsuit, Cenzon-DeCarlo v. The Mount Sinai Hospital.

  • Note: Facts in ADF news releases are verified prior to publication but may change over time. Members of the media are encouraged to contact ADF for the latest information on this matter.

Contact: ADF MEDIA RELATIONS  (480) 444-0020

ADF is a legal alliance of Christian attorneys and like-minded organizations defending the right of people to freely live out their faith. Launched in 1994, ADF employs a unique combination of strategy, training, funding, and litigation to protect and preserve religious liberty, the sanctity of life, marriage, and the family.

Christian Medical Association Physicians Oppose Healthcare Bill on Abortion, Conscience

Christian Medical Association

15 March, 2010

WASHINGTON, March 15 /Standard Newswire/ -- The 17,000 members of the Christian Medical Association today urged Members of the House of Representatives to vote against the controversial healthcare overhaul bill approved by the Senate, H.R. 3590.

In a letter to all Members of the House, CMA CEO David Stevens, MD noted that "The CMA strongly opposes this legislation because it fails to provide strong conscience protections for healthcare professionals, allows direct federal funding of elective abortions in community health centers and allows federal funds to subsidize health plans covering abortions."

CMA has led a national coalition of 50 organizations, Freedom2Care, to fight for conscience rights for healthcare professionals.

Dr. Stevens noted in the letter, "A national survey of faith-based physicians shows that the failure to protect the rights of healthcare professionals to decline to participate not only in abortion but also in other morally controversial procedures and prescriptions, may cause up to 95 percent of faith-based physicians to leave medicine. Since faith-based physicians provide much of the care for poor patients and those in medically underserved areas, their exodus would lead to a national crisis of access to care of catastrophic proportion."

Dr. Stevens also wrote, "The CMA strongly supports funding for community health centers, and many of our physicians work full-time, part-time and on a volunteer basis caring for the poor. But we cannot support federal funding for abortions that will result in yet more abortions while violating the clear will of the American people who do not want their tax dollars used to pay for them."

On the issue of federal subsidy of abortions, Dr. Stevens wrote, "Such funding, however cleverly designed to obscure the result, clearly violates the longstanding Hyde amendment and related laws. Such funding also violates the President's oft-repeated pledge to maintain the status quo on abortion funding. Besides the obvious moral wrong of funding abortions, this policy will also have negative economic consequences. Incentivized by new insurance subsidies, abortionists will simply raise prices and increase their profits. Increased abortions will rob the country of much of the younger generation that otherwise would help avert the financial strain of a top-heavy older population."

The letter also noted "government intrusion into physician-patient decision making and the allocation of medical resources, the absence of meaningful tort reform that is desperately needed to prevent the loss of some of our best physicians--especially obstetricians and gynecologists, and the lack of bipartisan and public support that should undergird any legislation of this magnitude."

Dr. Stevens urged Members to "pursue a new bipartisan, measured and focused approach to true healthcare reform. Seven key principles our members look for in healthcare reform include cost containment, quality assurance, access for the poor, economic fairness, ethical protection, prevention focus and personal responsibility."

Contact: Margie Shealy
Telephone: 423-844-1047;

The Christian Medical Association is equipped with Ku Band Digital Uplink satellite and ISDN lines.

Conscience or Tyranny

Right to Life New Zealand

20 February, 2010

Right to Life applauds a group of courageous pro - life doctors challenging the Medical Council's provisions relating to abortion included in its draft document titled, "Beliefs and Medical Practice." The pro - life doctors have filed an application with the High Court in Wellington for a judicial review of the draft document.

The draft document requires a medical practitioner to inform a woman who is ambivalent about her pregnancy, "is offered access to objective information or assistance to enable her to make informed decisions on all available options for her pregnancy including termination."

In the event that the doctor on the grounds of conscience is not prepared to provide advice on abortion the doctor is obliged to inform the woman requesting the service that she may obtain that service from another health practitioner or a family planning clinic.

Right to Life contends that the above requirements are an infringement on the conscience of medical practitioners and constitute a violation of human rights. Man has the right to act in conscience and in freedom to enable him to make moral decisions. He must not be forced to act contrary to his conscience, nor must he be prevented from acting according to his informed conscience. Our conscience enables us to do good and avoid evil. The Medical Council has a duty to protect the conscience of medical professionals.

  • We are all called to defend life. Medical practitioners have a duty of care to their patients and to do no harm. When a doctor is being consulted by a woman who is with child, the doctor is dealing with two patients. He has a duty of care for the unborn child, who is the weakest and most defenceless member of the human family. The doctor has no duty to offer the killing of the child as a treatment option nor is he obliged to facilitate its killing. Is it reprehensible for a doctor to believe and say that it is a violation of the human rights of his patient; an unborn child to kill it and that having an abortion could result in causing the mother to experience a lifetime of regret, anguish and serious mental ill health? It is tragic at this time when the High Court has warned that there is serious concern about the lawfulness of many abortions authorised in New Zealand that the Medical Council should be seeking to expedite the killing of unborn children.
  • In 1948 the General Assembly of the World Medical Association in Geneva passed a Declaration on the responsibilities of medical practitioners, it included, "The health and life of my patient will be my first consideration." It also stated, "I will maintain the utmost respect for human life from the time of its conception, even under threat, I will not use my medical knowledge contrary to the laws of humanity." The Geneva Declaration was made in response to the crimes against humanity that were perpetrated by Nazi Germany. Will the Medical Council learn from history?
  • Right to Life requests that the Medical Council promotes a culture of life and opposes a culture of death by amending the draft document to uphold the primacy of conscience and protect women's health and the lives of their unborn children.

Ken Orr,

Time is Ripe for Conscience Rights

Catholic League for Religious and Civil Rights

20 January, 2010

WASHINGTON, Jan. 20 /Standard Newswire/ -- Catholic League president Bill Donohue explains why both the House and Senate health care bills are inadequate:

While the House bill is better than the Senate bill on the issue of federal funds for abortion, neither adequately provides protection for the conscience rights of health care workers. It is important to recognize that one of the issues which hurt Martha Coakley in Massachusetts was her adamant rejection of conscience rights: she effectively told Catholic doctors and nurses that they either perform abortions or look for another job. This didn't go over big with Catholics, as well as with many others, in the Bay State.

President Obama told the graduating class of the University of Notre Dame that he fully supports conscience rights for health care workers. That won him great applause. But there is no evidence that he is working to secure these rights in either the House or Senate bill. He invoked the name of Rev. Martin Luther King the other day in pushing for health care reform, but he never cited what King had to say about conscience rights.

King strongly believed that "an individual who breaks a law that conscience tells him is unjust, and who willingly accepts the penalty of imprisonment in order to arouse the conscience of the community over its injustice, is in reality expressing the highest respect for the law." King's plea, which is an application of Catholic teaching on natural rights, needs to be heeded by Obama and the Congress. Rather than forcing Catholic health care workers to break the law--which they most certainly will do, if pushed--it would be much more prudent to simply guarantee their conscience rights in these bills.

King understood how important these rights are. It's time those who lean on his legacy adopted them as well. 


Susan A. Fani, Director of Communications
Catholic League for Religious and Civil Rights

Press Release on Coakley Hostility to Conscience Rights

Catholic Medical Association

18 January, 2010

Philadelphia, PA - January 18, 2010 - In a statement released Monday, the Catholic Medical Association (CMA) condemned statements regarding respect for conscience rights made by Democratic Senate candidate Martha Coakley in an interview conducted on January 14. "In the course of the interview, Martha Coakley demonstrated hostility to conscience rights in general, and to the beliefs of faithful Catholics in particular," stated John F. Brehany, Ph.D., S.T.L., executive director of the CMA.

When asked if she would support federal legislation that protected the conscience rights of health care providers, Coakley replied, "I don't believe that would be included in the health care bill." Moving on, she stated that, "I would not pass a bill . . . to say that people who believe that they do not want to provide services required under the law and under Roe v. Wade, that they can individually decide to not follow the law. The answer to that is no." Referencing the provision of drugs following sexual assault and Catholics, Coakley concluded, "You can have religious freedom, but you probably shouldn't work in the emergency room."

According to Brehany, there are a couple of important things to notice about Coakley's comments: "First," he noted, "although much attention has been paid to Coakley's comments about "working in the emergency room," her comments reveal hostility to the rights of all providers regarding any procedure under the law. While it is true that focused attacks on conscience rights have centered on abortion and reproductive services, there is nothing to prevent advocacy groups from insisting that providers cooperate with euthanasia, assisted suicide, and any number of other unethical actions. Coakley specifically disagrees with objecting to any services 'required under the law and Roe v. Wade'."

Second, Brehany commented, "Coakley's statements reveal a specific hostility to faithful Catholics. While some news stories of the interview have referred to 'devout Catholics' in the emergency room, the interviewer actually referenced Catholics who 'believe what the Pope teaches.' This is the definition of a real Catholic, not of a devout Catholic. Coakley's dismissal of their faith and rights and is a shocking display of disrespect for members of one religion. Even on legal grounds, it is inadequate, as Matt Bowman of the Alliance defense fund has pointed out here."

Brehany concluded, "This should be a wake-up call to all Catholics and even all health care providers. Conscience rights in medical practice are under attack as never before. People should demand legal protection of their human and constitutional rights in any new health care legislation. Running roughshod over conscience rights is not only wrong in principle, it will harm patients as faithful, ethical health-care providers are driven out of practice."

The section of the interview of Ken Pittman with Martha Coakley on conscience and health care can be heard at this link, beginning at the 55-second mark.

For more information, or for an interview with CMA executive director John Brehany, Ph.D., contact the Catholic Medical Association.

Founded in 1932, the Catholic Medical Association is the largest association of Catholic physicians in North America. For more information, go to .