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.

Forcing a Hospice to Euthanize in Canada

National Review

Wesley J. Smith

Euthanasia is more than just legal in Canada. It has become a government-guaranteed right.

But how to guarantee that the legally qualified who want to die are made dead? Unless the government establishes killing centers out of Soylent Green, it will have to coerce doctors to do the killing or procure the euthanasia doctor -called “effective referral” — as has been done in Ontario. And, it will have to force medical facilities into allowing euthanasia on premises, whether their administators like it or not.

Such an imposition is now taking place in British Columbia, where the Delta Hospice board of directors are standing tall for the hospice philosophy of caring — but never killing — by refusing to permit euthanasia in the facililty. In response, the BC Health Minister is threatening to restrict funding in the single-payer system, which, ironically, would undercut the facilities ability to care optimally for their patients who don’t want to be killed. From the Globe and Mail story:

A B.C. hospice society that refuses to provide medical assistance in dying at its facility in violation of local rules has been given until Thursday to submit plans for compliance.

Health Minister Adrian Dix said the Delta Hospice Society, which operates the Irene Thomas Hospice in Ladner, may face penalties if it fails to do so.

“We’ve asked them … to provide their plan to fulfill their contract with the Fraser Health Authority and it is our expectation that they will,” Mr. Dix said on Wednesday. “Should they not want to fulfill their contract with Fraser Health, there may well be consequences of that.”

It it my understanding that there is a Fraser hospital directly across the street from the hospice where patients are euthanized. It would be easy to move hospice patients who want to have that done to the hospital where they could be put down according to their desire. But even if that weren’t true, so long as the hospice advises patients that euthanasia is not permitted on site, why force the issue? Why threaten to bring financial ruin upon a small, heterodox-managed institution?

Because of the message that Delta sends that euthanasia is morally wrong and an improper way to treat terminally ill patients. That is what burns. Hence, the authoritarian response of the government.

This is both a civil rights issue and a matter of basic compassion. Think about the patient in the next bed who values life and knows that his neighbor is being killed by a doctor. That would be both terrifying and morale destroying because of the cruel message communicated that his life — like that of the neighbor — is no longer deemed worth protecting.

The ongoing assault on medical conscience in Canada demonstrates how the culture of death brooks no dissent. The same thing will happen here if we let the wolf in the door. Those with eyes to see, let them see.

Dutch cardinal: Priests should ‘speak clearly’ on assisted suicide

Catholic News Agency

Andrea Gagliarducci

Vatican City, Dec 16, 2019 / 05:06 pm (CNA).- A priest must say clearly to a person opting for assisted suicide or voluntary euthanasia that he is committing a grave sin, a Dutch cardinal told CNA this week.

For the same reason, a priest cannot be present when voluntary euthanasia or assisted suicide is performed. This might imply that the priest has no problems with the decision or even that “these morally illicit acts are not such in some circumstances according to the teaching of the Church,” Cardinal Willelm Eijk, Archbishop of Utrecht and an expert on euthanasia issues, told CNA. . . [Full text]

Catholic Medical Association launches conscience app

Doctors who have ethical questions in the midst of treating a patient can check their phones for answers.

Aleteia

John Burger

Catholic physicians who are concerned about the ethical implications of care and treatment decisions now have a new tool to help them, and it will fit right into their pocket.

The Catholic Medical Association has developed the Catholic Medical Conscience App for health care professionals who want help learning and applying the intellectual tradition of the Church in the health care setting. The app has a “nihil obstat,” an official Church approval, from the Archdiocese of Indianapolis. . . [Full text]

New government publishes new guidelines for non-punishable abortions

Change will make it harder for hospitals to deny women seeking to terminate pregnancies in cases of rape or endangerment to their health.

Buenos Aires Times

The Health Ministry has published new guidelines for non-punishable abortions in Argentina, moving to guarantee access for those seeking to end pregnancies that are a result of rape or endanger the mother’s life.

The new protocol, published in the Official Gazette just three days after Alberto Fernández was sworn-in as president, is a move to guarantee access for those who meet the conditions.

“The protocol will be used as a guide, especially in cases where the law clearly allows for the interruption of pregnancies,” Health Minister Ginés González García told a press conference. . . the Health Ministry also advised that conscientious objection “will not be considered an institutional excuse to not comply with the law.” [Full text]

Archbishop Paglia says priests can be present at assisted suicide

Catholic Herald

Hannah Brockhaus

Archbishop Vincenzo Paglia, president of the Pontifical Academy for Life, said Tuesday that he would be willing to hold the hand of someone dying from assisted suicide, and that he does not see that as lending implicit support for the practice.

Paglia spoke at a December 10 press conference preceding a two-day symposium on palliative care, being sponsored by the Pontifical Academy for Life and the WISH initiative, part of the Qatar Foundation. . . [Full text]

Doctors can object to procedures, not specific patients, under revised religious discrimination bill

RACGP President Dr Harry Nespolon cautiously welcomed the revisions, saying the college will ‘carefully consider’ the revised bill.

News GP

Doug Hendrie

Under the revisions, conscientious objectors could refuse to provide treatments to which they objected on religious grounds, as long as the refusal is a blanket ban.

Speaking at a press conference, Attorney-General Christian Porter said the revised bill means it would be acceptable for a GP to, for example, refuse to ‘engage in hormone therapies’ for transgender patients broadly, but not for an individual patient only.

The revisions are intended to rule out discrimination, Mr Porter said. . . [Full text]

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]

‘Considerable unwillingness’ to participate in medical abortions by Irish GPs — study

Irish Medical Times

Lloyd Mudiwa

There is a lack of training and a considerable level of unwillingness among Irish GPs to participate in the medical termination of pregnancy, a study, the first to look at the issue in Ireland, has concluded.

“There is a lack of training and considerable level of unwillingness to participate in this process among Irish GPs,” the research team stated in their research report.

“There is also a perceived lack of patient support services for women experiencing unwanted pregnancy. It is incumbent upon state and professional bodies to address these issues.” [Full text]