Christian doctors continue the fight for conscience protections

Christian Medical & Dental Associations will appeal decision blocking Trump admin Conscience Rule

News Release

Becket

WASHINGTON – Religious medical professionals in New York have announced that they appealed a district court’s decision to block vital conscience protections for doctors and nurses. In New York v. HHS, the Becket Fund for Religious Liberty is defending Dr. Regina Frost and the Christian Medical & Dental Associations (CMDA) from attempts by Planned Parenthood and New York officials to force religious doctors to perform life-ending procedures that violate their consciences. The Trump administration has until Jan. 6 to join the appeal from the district court’s decision, which struck down one of the administration’s signature regulations.

In May 2019, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) issued a Conscience Rule to better enforce longstanding, bipartisan laws that, for decades, have promised to allow religious doctors, nurses and healthcare professionals to serve patients without being required to violate their consciences. Medical professionals of all faith backgrounds and with moral objections rely on these well established protections. The Rule holds HHS funding recipients to agreements that they made under existing federal statutes to accommodate religious health professionals. But several states and abortion provider and advocacy organizations—including the State of New York and Planned Parenthood, which have long accepted HHS funds—immediately sued to avoid enforcement of their existing agreements under the Rule and to push religious healthcare professionals like Dr. Frost out of the medical profession.

“My faith is at the heart of who I am. It is what drives me to put the needs of women and their children first every day, and to serve everyone in my care with dignity and respect,” said Dr. Regina Frost. “If the government forces me to violate my faith and my medical judgment to perform abortions, I’ll have no choice but to leave the profession.”

Dr. Frost is an OB-GYN and one of nearly 19,000 medical professionals in CMDA serving vulnerable populations in the United States and abroad. Across the country, CMDA members serve the homeless, prisoners living with HIV, and victims of opioid addiction, sex trafficking, and gang violence. Overseas, CMDA members serve in war zones, refugee clinics, and remote areas without quality healthcare. The lawsuit by Planned Parenthood and New York needlessly threatens the health and well-being of at-risk, underserved populations across the globe. New polling shows that healthcare professionals are committed to serving all patients but are facing increasing pressures to perform in certain procedures, which they believe end life and violate their faith—and these pressures could force 91 percent of religious doctors out of the medical field.

In Nov. 2019, a New York district court ruled against the Conscience Rule. Yesterday, Dr. Frost and CMDA appealed this ruling to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit. The deadline for the Trump administration to appeal the district court’s decision is Jan. 6, 2020.

“Like an ideological Grinch stealing conscience rights, Planned Parenthood is robbing not only religious doctors and nurses but also the patients that they serve,” said Daniel Blomberg, senior counsel at Becket. “To hear Planned Parenthood tell it, one pro-life OB-GYN is one too many. That’s wrong and it’s bad for healthcare. In a big, diverse country like ours, we can ensure that everyone will receive the care they need while still respecting the consciences of religious doctors and nurses.”

For more information or to arrange an interview with a Becket attorney, contact Ryan Colby at media@becketlaw.org or 202-349-7219. Interviews can be arranged in English, Chinese, French, German, Portuguese, Russian, or Spanish.

Woman suing two pharmacies after being denied emergency contraception

The US case brings to light concerns around conscientious objection at a time when a federal religious discrimination bill is being debated in Australia

AJP

Sheshtyn Paola

A woman has filed a lawsuit against a Thrifty White Pharmacy and a CVS Pharmacy in Minnesota in the US, alleging the two pharmacies illegally kept her from accessing emergency contraception.

Andrea Anderson, a 39-year-old mother of five, says she asked the pharmacist at her drugstore in Minnesota more than once why he couldn’t fill her prescription for emergency contraception, according to the Star Tribune.

“I then realised what was happening: he was refusing to fill my prescription for emergency contraception because he did not believe in it,” Ms Anderson said on Tuesday. . . [Full text]

Beware the “Fake News” on Conscience Rights

Cutting Through the Abortion Distortion on Protections for Pro-Life Medical Professionals

American Center for Law and Justice

Francis J. Manion

You may have seen this past week headlines from a variety of news outlets loudly proclaiming the death of conscience rights: “Trump’s ‘conscience rule’ for health providers blocked by federal judge.” “Second federal judge strikes down Trump’s ‘conscience protection’ rule for health care providers.” Both the headlines and, for the most part, the stories themselves give the impression that, as usual, the independent federal judiciary has had to come to the rescue of all that is good and true by thwarting the latest attempt by “Trump” and his “religious right” henchpeople to impose their troglodyte, Taliban-esque views on Americans who just want to be treated in hospitals and doctors’ offices without interference from small-minded religious fanatics.

But it’s fake news. The decisions of the U.S. District Courts in New York and Washington addressed a set of administrative regulations – housekeeping stuff – adopted by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services earlier this year for how HHS wants to go about interpreting and enforcing pre-existing conscience protection laws. The laws themselves remain untouched and, as the New York court made clear, its decision leaves HHS at liberty to enforce existing conscience laws and to adopt rules governing how they go about doing that. . . [Full text]

US paid to tie down, blindfold, sterilize indigenous Peruvian women. Now they’re suing

LifeSite News

Martin M. Barillas

LIMA, Peru, November 7, 2019 (LifeSiteNews) – After more than 20 years, women who were forcibly sterilized will have their day in court as prosecutors in Peru intend to charge a former president and government officials with serious human rights abuses.

Former President Alberto Fujimori of Peru (1990-2000) and other former high-ranking government officials will face a court in December for their involvement in forced sterilizations of women, which caused the death of at least one woman in the Andean republic. Fujimori, 81, promoted his Voluntary Chemical Contraception Program in the 1990s to supposedly level the playing field and provide to poor women contraception that they would not be able to afford without government assistance. Contraception services in Peru were subsidized by U.S. taxpayers through the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID). . . [Full text]

Whose Rights Come First: Doctors’ or Patients’?

Medscape

Arthur L. Caplan

Hi. I’m Art Caplan. I’m at the Division of Medical Ethics at the NYU School of Medicine. Conscientious objection—everybody seems to be talking about it these days. What are the rights of physicians, pharmacists, nurses, or other healthcare workers to say that something may be legal but they refuse to do it?

This issue has come up particularly as more and more health systems are merging. You see Catholic hospitals merging with secular hospitals. Catholic hospitals have a huge presence in the American world of hospitals and nursing homes, probably accounting for 40% of all facilities. When mergers take place, whose values predominate? . . [Full text]

(Project response: Freedom of conscience in healthcare: “an interesting moral swamp?”)

PDForra seeking conscientious objection rights

The Irish Examiner

Sean O’Riordan

The association representing the country’s frontline Defence Forces has taken a case to the Council of Europe to force the State to recognise the right of soldiers, sailors and aircrew to register as conscientious objectors.

PDForra, which represents 6,500 enlisted personnel, is leading the case on behalf of sister organisations in Denmark, Greece, Cyprus and the Netherlands. The Irish case has been lodged through Euromil, the umbrella body of European military representative associations, and argues that not recognising conscientious objection breaches Human Rights legislation. .. [Full text]

Colorado End-of-Life Options Act

A Clash of Organizational and Individual Conscience

JAMA

Matthew Wynia

Journal of the American Medical Association The 2016 Colorado End-of-Life Options Act includes a provision unique among states with such laws, specifically privileging individual health care professionals, including physicians and pharmacists, to choose whether to write and fill prescriptions for life-ending medications, such as high-dose secobarbital or various combinations of morphine, diazepam, beta-blockers, and digoxin, without regard to the position their employer has taken on the law. This provision virtually guaranteed the Colorado law would eventually be challenged, which happened in August 2019.1 The current legal case directly pits the conscience rights of individual health care professionals against those of religiously affiliated corporations. Because 5 of the top 10 US hospital systems by net revenue are now religiously affiliated,2 and these systems often restrict medical care in a variety of ways,3 how the case is resolved could have far-reaching implications for US health care, extending well beyond the relatively rare use of aid-in-dying medications at the end of life.


Wynia M. Colorado End-of-Life Options Act: A Clash of Organizational and Individual Conscience. JAMA. 2019;322(20):1953-1954. doi:10.1001/jama.2019.16438

Italian doctors on trial for manslaughter after refusing abortion

More than two-thirds of obstetricians exercise ‘right to object’ to terminations

Financial Times

Hannah Roberts, Marianna Giusti

Seven Italian doctors who refused to perform a potentially life-saving abortion are fighting accusations of manslaughter in a trial that is expected to set a precedent for Italy’s medical attitude towards the procedure.

The trial held in Catania, Sicily, focuses on the circumstances of the death, in 2016, of five-months-pregnant Valentina Milluzzo. Members of Milluzzo’s family, who gave evidence on Tuesday, said that when the 32-year-old was admitted to hospital with complications, doctors said her unborn twins would not survive but refused to terminate the pregnancies on moral grounds, which ultimately led to fatal sepsis. . . [Full text]

Texas divorce case opposes two views of child transgenders

BioEdge

Michael Cook

A bitter divorce case in Texas involving the custody of seven-year-old twin boys has turned toxic after the parents began disputing whether one of them is transgender. It has become a test case for the legitimacy of transgender medicine for children.

The father, Jeff Younger, argues that his son, James, identifies with his biological sex. The mother, Anne Georgulas, a paediatrician, argues that James is really a girl and demands that he be called Luna. . . [Full text]

Judge rejects requiring doctors to perform transition surgery, abortions

Crux

Catholic News Service

WICHITA FALLS, Texas – By annulling an Obama administration requirement that doctors perform gender transition procedures or treatments, as well as abortions, a federal judge in Texas has upheld the conscience rights of medical professionals across the nation, said a lawyer for plaintiffs in the case.

“It is critically important that doctors are able to continue serving patients in keeping with their consciences and their professional medical judgment, especially when it comes to the personal health choices of families and children,” said Luke Goodrich, vice president and senior counsel at Becket, a Washington-based nonprofit religious liberty law firm. . . [Full text]