Cardinal Rigali Urges Congress To Respect Conscience Rights

Office of Media Relations 08-106
For Immediate Release
July 18, 2008

United States Conference of Catholic Bishops

Responding to objections to anticipated federal HHS  regulations protecting health care providers’ fundamental rights of conscience,  Cardinal Justin Rigali, chairman of the United States  Conference of Catholic Bishops’ Committee on Pro-Life Activities, today wrote to  all members of Congress defending “efforts to reaffirm and implement laws on  conscience protection.”

The New York Times on July 15 reported that it had obtained an alleged draft of regulations soon to be issued  by the Department of Health and Human Services, to clarify and enforce federal  laws on respect for the moral and religious convictions of health care personnel  in programs receiving federal funds.  Pro-abortion organizations and some  members of Congress have already attacked the as-yet-unpublished regulations,  saying they are unwarranted and could limit “access” to abortion and birth  control.

Reacting to these criticisms, Cardinal Rigali said this “should be a  matter of agreement among members who call themselves ‘pro-life’ and  ‘pro-choice’: the freedom of health care providers to serve the public without  violating their most deeply held moral and religious convictions on the sanctity  of human life.”

“Congress has passed numerous laws protecting rights of  conscience in health care, beginning in 1973,” said the Cardinal, and these laws  address sterilization and other issues in addition to abortion.  “The  critics’ surprise that conscience protection may apply beyond the specific issue  of abortion seems based on a lack of knowledge of existing federal law… If the  Administration is preparing regulations along these lines, it would simply be  performing its proper task in an area of law where that is long overdue.”

Cardinal Rigali said the charge that respect for conscience rights undermines  “access” to abortion and other procedures contradicts pro-abortion groups’  longstanding claim that only “a tiny minority of religious zealots” object to  their agenda.  In any case, he said, “patients with pro-life convictions,  including women who require a physician’s care for themselves and their unborn  children during pregnancy, deserve ‘access’ to health care professionals who do  not have contempt for their religious and moral convictions or for the lives of  their children.”

“This issue,” he said, “provides self-described ‘pro-choice’  advocates with an opportunity to demonstrate their true convictions… [I]s the  ‘pro-choice’ label a misleading mask for an agenda of actively promoting and  even imposing morally controversial procedures on those who conscientiously hold  different views?”

CCWA Applauds HHS for Upholding Healthcare Providers’ Rights

15 July, 2008

Concerned Women for America

WASHINGTON – –  According to The New York Times, the Bush administration plans to propose regulations to comply with federal laws to protect patients and healthcare professionals from being forced to provide controversial drugs and procedures such as abortion.  The newspaper reports that the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) has drafted regulations “to ensure that federal money does not ‘support morally coercive or discriminatory practices or policies in violation of federal law.'” Recipients of federal health programs (such as hospitals and clinics) would have to certify that they will not refuse to hire healthcare providers who object to abortion or abortifacients (drugs or devices that can cause an early abortion).  The regulation defines abortion as “any of the various procedures — including the prescription, dispensing and administration of any drug or the performance of any procedure or any other action — that results in the termination of the life of a human being in utero between conception and natural birth, whether before or after implantation.”

“For over 35 years, federal laws have protected the conscientious rights of healthcare professionals, but they were not fully implemented for lack of thorough regulations to enforce them,” stated Wendy Wright, President of Concerned Women for America (CWA).  “As more controversial drugs and procedures get introduced, and additional pressure is put on healthcare providers to either compromise their moral commitments or lose their jobs, the need has become greater for regulations to catch up with the law.”

“As patients, we rely on healthcare professionals to provide ethical advice and treatments. Patients will lose trust in the healthcare field if professionals are gagged from giving ethical and well-informed advice or forced to commit procedures or provide drugs that take an innocent life.  If healthcare professionals are denied the right to live out their moral beliefs, patients will suffer the consequences.”  Abortion proponents reportedly oppose the proposed regulations.  “Clearly, abortion advocates do not believe in the ‘right to choose’ if the choice is not to participate in abortion or provide drugs that can take the life of a human being.  The regulation applies to abortion, which is clearly defined as an action that terminates a human life before or after implantation.  When abortion advocates claim this regulation would discourage providing ‘contraception’ it reveals that their definition of ‘contraception’ includes drugs that would cause abortion.”

Contact: Natalie Bell, Concerned Women for America,   202-488-7000  ext. 126 Concerned Women for America is the nation’s largest public policy women’s organization.

CMA physicians call on HHS to protect patients with regulations upholding healthcare professionals’ rights

July 15, 2008
For Immediate Release

Christian Medical Association

Washington, D.C.–July 15, 2008– Responding to a story published this morning by the New York Times , physicians of the Christian Medical Association called  on Secretary of Health and Human Services Michael O. Leavitt to publish  regulations in accord with federal laws protecting patients and healthcare  professionals in decisions relating to controversial procedures and  prescriptions. The New York Times indicated that the Department has drafted regulations “to ensure that  federal money does not ‘support morally coercive or discriminatory practices or  policies in violation of federal law.'”

“It’s high time that the will of the people, as expressed over the past 35 years  through laws passed by Congress, finally be translated into practical healthcare  regulations,” noted Dr. David Stevens, CEO of the 13,000-member faith-based  professional organization of doctors, in a letter today to the Secretary. “Americans  on all sides of controversial issues such as abortion, reproductive technologies  and assisted suicide can appreciate the need to protect everyone’s First  Amendment rights of free speech and religious exercise. That means that  healthcare professionals must be free to follow their individual conscientious  convictions on these life-and-death matters. The CMA  letter also noted, “An informal survey of Christian Medical Association members  found that over 41 percent of respondents had been “pressured to compromise  Biblical or ethical convictions.”

Anecdotal accounts suggest that few persecuted  healthcare professionals actually know their conscience rights and that they  typically simply submit to pressure by resigning. Unless pro-life professionals  are equipped to know and apply their conscience rights, they actually stand at risk of being weeded out from the profession altogether .

Dr. Gene Rudd, Executive Vice President of the CMA, noted, “From the 1973 Church  Amendment to the more recent Hyde-Weldon Amendment, Congress has recognized the  importance of protecting patients and their healthcare professionals from  political pressures on these vital issues.”Patients are protected when physicians follow objective ethical codes, such as  those expressed in the Hippocratic Oath and the Judeo-Christian Scriptures. We  recognize that some individuals choose to refuse to follow these principles, and  under current law, that is their choice. “The regulations reportedly under consideration at Health and Human Services  apparently would simply protect the right for all healthcare professionals to  make professional judgments based on moral convictions and ethical standards.  Protecting this right also protects patients who choose their physicians based  on life-affirming values.”

Contact: Becky Gerber  Telephone: 888-231-2637    E-mail: The Christian Medical Association is equipped with Ku Band Digital Uplink  satellite and ISDN lines.