El problema de la objeción de conciencia no regulada

Cuando la conciencia molesta a la ley

Sean Murphy*

A finales de 2010, en la Asamblea Parlamentaria del Consejo de Europa (PACE) se presentó un informe de su Comisión de Asuntos Sociales, Salud y Familia en el que expresaba su profunda preocupación por el problema de la “objeción de conciencia no regulada” en Europa. El Comité propuso que los Estados adoptaran “una regulación integral y clara” para hacer frente a este problema. . .[aceprensa]

The problem of unregulated conscientious objection

  Sean Murphy*

In late 2010, the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE) was presented with a report from its Social, Health and Family Affairs Committee expressing deep concern about the problem of “unregulated conscientious objection” in Europe.  The Committee proposed to solve this problem by having states adopt “comprehensive and clear regulations” to address it.

The Council ultimately adopted a resolution that almost completely contradicted the premises of the report, but in 2011 the theme was resurrected by Dr. Leslie Cannold, an Australian ethicist.  Dr. Cannold warned that, “[a]t best, unregulated conscientious objection is an accident waiting to happen,” and, at worst, “a sword wielded by the pious against the vulnerable with catastrophic results.”  It was, she wrote, “a pressing problem from which we can no longer, in good conscience, look away.” . . .[Full text]

 

Protection of conscience bill in New Hampshire

A protection of conscience bill has been proposed in New Hampshire, one of only three states that lack protective legislation for health care workers.  House Bill 1653 offers protection for individuals, though not for institutions.  It is opposed by Planned Parenthood and the American Civil Liberties Association. [Nashua Telegraph]

 

The campaign to force hospitals to provide abortion

United States Conference of Catholic Bishops

Forty-five states and the federal government protect the right of health care providers to
decline involvement in abortion. Pro-abortion  groups seek to abolish these legal protections.

Consider the following:

Abortion Access Project

Operating in twenty-four states, the project’s goal is “increasing access to abortion services by expanding . . . the number of hospitals offering abortion services.” The project admits that its tactics include “pressuring hospitals” and it does so through both political and legal pressure. The “Hospital Access Collaborative” division reports on the state projects’ legal and regulatory interventions challenging mergers. [Full text]

A Doctor’s Choice

The Washington Times
25 September, 2002.
Reproduced with permission

Dick Armey

Dick Armey was the Majority Leader (Republican)  in the U.S. House of Representatives when the following opinion column was written.

The vast majority of all hospitals – public and private – do not get involved in abortion. In fact, 86 percent of all hospitals did not  perform a single abortion last year.

There is a reason for that. Most  health care providers are interested in protecting and saving human life, not taking it. Government shouldn’t force them to take part in  actions – such as performing abortions – against their beliefs, morals or religion.

In 1996, Congress enacted legislation ending state and federal discrimination against health care providers that do not perform abortions.  In a series of court opinions and rulings, activist  judges are flouting the will of Congress and ordering hospitals, not to promote life, but to end it.  They are telling doctors and nurses to suspend their most strongly held beliefs and perform a practice so heinous that even progressive  hospitals have rejected.

So today, the House of Representatives will consider the Abortion Non-Discrimination Act (ANDA)  and right the wrong perpetrated by liberal courts.  The bill signals Congress’ intent in one simple yet powerful message – no health care provider should ever be forced to do something that violates their moral, ethical, or religious beliefs.

While there is deep disagreement in America about whether abortion  should be legal, nearly all Americans would agree that no one should be forced to have an abortion or to perform an abortion if they don’t want to. That, however, hasn’t stopped some on the extreme fringe of this  issue from trying to force hospitals to provide abortions anyway.

Valley Hospital in Palmer, Alaska, is one such example. Located about 50  miles east of Anchorage, the hospital’s board implemented a policy in 1990 barring abortion procedures except in cases of rape, incest and danger to the life of the mother.  The hospital was sued, and a judge arbitrarily ruled that because Valley Hospital received some government money, it was a “quasi-government entity” and had to provide         abortions. The hospital appealed the case to the Alaska Supreme Court, citing a state law that protected its right of conscience.  The Supreme Court ruled against the hospital and, in one fell swoop, threw out the state’s conscience law.

Congress’ conscience guarantees were also overturned in New Jersey. When Rancocas Hospital in Willingboro, N.J., was purchased by Our Lady of Lourdes Healthcare Services, a new policy was instituted against  performing abortions. Our Lady of Lourdes, as the name suggests, is a Catholic agency, and the Catholic church believes abortion is wrong.  The American Civil Liberties Union of New Jersey sued. It argued that  if Our Lady of Lourdes didn’t want to allow abortions in its hospital, it should provide a separate building on the hospital’s campus for  that purpose. This, obviously, made no sense to the hospital. The ACLU also argued that the hospital was duty-bound to provide abortions because its original mission statement called for “comprehensive” health care services. The ACLU conveniently forgot that when the mission statement was written in 1961, abortion was a felony.

So much is at stake in this bill. Without its passage, the viability and integrity of our country’s health care system are in jeopardy. In this age of managed care and  skyrocketing health care costs, hospitals are merging in order to survive. If courts demand that pro-abortion policies be a condition of merging – as a number already have – there will be fewer of these cost-saving partnerships.

Many of these alliances involve denominational hospitals – hospitals  principally organized to serve the poor and needy. They have been and will continue to be the first victims of court-imposed abortion mandates, for in many cases they cannot practice medicine at all under these conditions.  The poor and vulnerable will be the ultimate casualties when these facilities have to close.

The Unfree

 The National Review
25 September, 2002

Reproduced with permission

Katherine Jean Lopez

It’s still legal to oppose abortion, isn’t it?

You might think that any piece of legislation with the word “non-discrimination” in it is just about automatically headed for easy congressional passage. What politician wants to be on record as being in favor of discrimination?

Well, it’s just not so. At least if the issues involved are religion and abortion.

The House of Representatives is set to take up the (ANDA) this week. The goal of the bill is to protect Americans’ right to not have to pay for or otherwise  participate in abortions. Specifically, ANDA seeks to protect religious hospitals and other health-care providers (clinics, insurers, nurses, doctors) who are opposed, in conscience, to abortion, from having to have anything to do with them.

This has been one of the hottest “reproductive rights” issues over the last few years. Very few statehouses haven’t seen coercive bills seeking to force religious – often Catholic-hospitals to provide the whole gamut of so-called “reproductive health” services, including abortion, all in the name of “access.” Currently 49 states (the exception is Vermont) have some kind of conscience protection for health-care providers, though none of them are as comprehensive as the proposed ANDA bill-which covers all health-care “entities.”

In this regard, one of the favorite topics among abortion advocates recently has been hospital mergers. Planned Parenthood argues, in an action alert send out to supporters this week, that health-care institutions, whatever their affiliation, “operate in a secular sphere, and employ and serve people of diverse backgrounds and faiths. Thus, their claimed right to refuse to provide these services imposes serious burdens on people who do not share their religious views.”

The ANDA bill, says PP, “would allow the ‘conscience’ of the entity to  trump the ‘conscience’ and needs of the women they serve. . . . This is  wrong.”

What is not wrong, however, in Planned Parenthood’s estimation, is “the  entity” – i.e. actual private organizations and Americans – being forced by law to provide services that the people who make up the organizations  believe to be morally prohibited. In fact, these hospitals often believe the very essence of their work is founded on an opposition to the taking  of a human life. It’s a principle that all of medicine – whether the practitioners were religious, agnostic, or atheist – once considered at its very core.

Even a nonsectarian hospital can get in legal trouble  under the current regime. In Alaska, Valley Hospital’s (elected) board decided that it did not want to continue letting a community OB/GYN use hospital facilities to perform abortions. The board’s decision meant that abortion was no longer available at the hospital except in cases of “rape, incest, and danger to  the life of the mother – exactly the same policy the federal government  has had in Medicaid and its other health programs for many years,” as       board member Karen Vosburgh told the House Energy and Commerce committee this summer.

As Vosburgh told the committee, an Alaska court’s subsequent decision (upheld by the state supreme court) to prohibit Valley Hospital from  making such a decision “potentially places all hospitals in our state in a  ‘Catch-22’ situation. If you are a non-religious hospital you have no First Amendment claim of religious freedom, so you must provide abortions.  If you are a religious hospital with a ‘free exercise’ claim, respect for your right of conscience may be seen as showing favoritism to religion, so you may still have to provide abortions.”

It’s just not Planned Parenthood and the overt abortion-advocacy groups  actively opposing ANDA. The American Civil Liberties Union’s Reproductive Freedom Project sent a representative to the Hill earlier in the summer to argue that the bill would unfairly restrict women from abortion, contraception, and even simple counseling.

The groups lobbying against ANDA have grabbed the talking points from their anti-abortion folder without focusing on the actual legislation they are so enthusiastically opposing. In fact, if this were not the narrow clarification that ANDA is, pro-lifers would likely be debating amongst themselves, some saying that the bill does not go far enough into specifics, into the realm of abortifacient so-called contraception, for instance. But these are battles for another day-having nothing to do with this piece of legislation.

Simply put, this isn’t a bill about abortion politics. It’s a bill about freedom. What abortion advocates have been arguing when it comes to “access” is that they would see rather a hospital merger not go through-and a hospital potentially shut down – than allow a hospital to choose not to participate in what its employees and founders believe to be  murder of a human life. For them, this is not about freedom. Their opposition to ANDA is a backdoor way to oppose any restrictions on women getting abortions whenever, wherever. As Brigham Young University Law School professor Lynn Wardle has put it, “zealous abortion activists continue to try to use the powers of government to compel participation in and payment for and coverage of abortion. Specifically, they try to compel hospitals, clinics, provider groups, and health-care insurers to provide facilities  for, personnel for, and funding for abortion.”

In fact, despite the scare stories from those opposed to ANDA, federally funded abortions would still be possible under ANDA. Nor is this a bill that seeks to reverse Roe v. Wade, the Supreme Court ruling that okayed abortion.  As a  fact sheet put out by the Catholic Bishops’ pro-life department notes, “States can ensure access to any abortions they fund without forcing specific providers against their will to provide these particular  abortions. A requirement that a state will contract only with a provider that offers absolutely every reimbursable service would be an enormous barrier to patients’ access to care, as few providers in any state could meet such a test.”

The case for the Abortion Non-Discrimination Act is a simple one, despite the heated rhetoric. As Pennsylvania congressman Joe Pitts put it at a hearing in July, “Abortion is an elective surgery. It is not prenatal care.  It is not basic health care, as some of our friends would like us to believe. Private hospitals should be able to decide what types of elective surgery they wish to offer. If they don’t want to provide abortions, they shouldn’t have to.”

That simplicity might give the bill a decent shot at passage. Tough sells on pro-life issues, like Republicans Tom Davis and Fred Upton, are cosponsoring ANDA. And some leading pro-life members – along with the Catholic bishops, an important voice on this issue in particular, given that there are over 600 Catholic hospitals in the U.S. (never mind other Catholic health-care entities) – are willing to push for this as a top priority for passage before the end of the year (likely as part of a lame-duck session, after the election). Rep. Pitts tells NRO: “I think there will be overwhelming support for the bill when it comes up for a vote.” In fact, as Pitts points out, even President Clinton signed a less comprehensive conscience-clause bill in1996. Cases like the Alaska one, however, make the need for ANDA clear.

In fact, for some members, ANDA is not at all different from what they voted for in 1996. Senator Olympia Snowe said on the Senate floor in 1996:   “[The amendment] does protect those institutions and those individuals who do not want to get involved in the performance or training of abortion when it is contrary to their beliefs . . . I do not think anyone would disagree with the fact – and I am pro-choice on this matter, but I do not  think anybody would disagree with the fact that an institution or an  individual who does not want to perform an abortion should do so contrary to their beliefs.”

She didn’t foresee how courts would interpret the law: as not including hospitals, because they are “quasi-public” entities. Of course, prospects in the Senate – as is so often the case – are murkier than in the House.

As Lynn Wardle noted in his testimony this summer, ANDA “is a very small,  but very important, step in the right direction.” Wardle tells NRO, “The  basic issue in the Abortion Non-Discrimination Act is forced abortion. A forced abortion occurs not only when a woman is forced to have an abortion  she does not want, but also when a health-care provider is forced to provide or participate in an abortion against her will. Even the Supreme  Court abortion cases are based on protecting voluntary choice. The right of individuals and organizations of individuals to choose in accord with their conscience to not have and to not participate in abortion must be protected against extremists who are trying to coerce others to provide abortion services that extremists want but which others find morally  repugnant.  That is what ANDA is about. It protects freedom of choice, the freedom not to be forced to perform or support abortion  against one’s moral beliefs.”

But then, for some, there are issues much more important than choice and non-discrimination: like making sure abortion is anything but rare. That’s why National Organization for Women calls ANDA “one of the most harmful  bills yet proposed.”

No Hospitality: The Unborn and the ACLU

BreakPoint
Commentary #020308 – 03/08/2002
Reproduced with permission

Charles Colson

Few, if any, organizations in the world promote abortion as zealously as the American Civil Liberties Union. Now it’s training its guns on hospitals.

A new ACLU report recently released complains that access to abortions is “increasingly jeopardized by the imposition of religious beliefs in the health care context.”

This deceptive language suggests that a Catholic or Baptist or Presbyterian hospital is “imposing” its beliefs on a woman by refusing to kill her unborn child. “No,” is equated with “imposing.” Well, the fact is that it’s the ACLU that would impose its zeal for killing the unborn on those who disagree.

Naturally the report doesn’t quite say it that way. The ACLU website  says, “It is often . . . appropriate to accommodate an individual health professional’s refusal to provide a service . . . ”

That sounds good, but read the fine print. It goes on to say “but only if the patient is ensured safe, timely, and feasible alternative access to treatment” — which means that if the woman can’t get an abortion nearby, medical personnel at a religious hospital have to perform it even though it is against their deepest convictions.

While the report concedes that an individual might be excused, it concedes nothing to the institution. The report states that hospitals  “operating in the public world and serving and employing a religiously diverse population . . . ought to play by public rules.” To do otherwise is viewed as a violation of  “reproductive rights” and a failure “to provide basic health care.”

But wait a minute — Public Rule number 1 is the First Amendment, guaranteeing the free exercise of religion. Clearly the ACLU and theabortion industry want to eviscerate the exercise of religious conviction in faith-based medical centers.

Christians and other people of compassion have established hospitals to heal the sick and care for the dying. They’re motivated by a concern for the ill — and also by the desire to obey God. The Scriptures command, “Practice hospitality” (Romans 12:13).  The ministry of “hospitality” means gracious, tender care for friend and stranger alike.

Hospitality does not mean doing anything and everything to please a guest. If a friend comes over asking for a gun to kill himself, we invite him in, comfort him, and encourage him to choose life. We don’t give him what he wants; rather we give him what he needs. In the same way, we don’t kill an unborn child because the child’s mother says he or she is unwanted.

I am thrilled that President Bush has reiterated his commitment to faith-based institutions, both in his State of the Union address and  in his recent message to Congress with a new faith-based bill.  Religious hospitals are one more good example of faith-based solutions that get the job done. And these hospitals need to be protected by law.

A pregnant woman and her child deserve real hospitality that affirms life and gives them wise counsel. And hospitals must remain free to minister in the name of Christ. It’s a shame the ACLU can’t practice a little hospitality toward these ministries of compassion.


Copyright (c)  2002          Prison Fellowship Ministries. Reprinted with permission. “BreakPoint with Chuck Colson” is a radio ministry of Prison Fellowship Ministries.