Coakley wrong on conscience rights of pro-lifers
15 January, 2010
Reproduced with permission
Yesterday, Massachusetts Attorney General Martha Coakley, who is running
for U.S. Senate,was
asked about doctors who object to drugs that contracept or kill embryos.
She said, "You can have religious freedom but you probably shouldn't work in
the emergency room."
In fact, Coakley went so far as to say she would oppose a health care
bill that allowed health care workers to object to providing not only
abortifacients but any abortion:
Q: "Would you pass a health care bill that had
conscientious objector towards certain prodecures incluiding abortion?"
Coakley: ". . . I would not pass a bill . . . to say
that if people believe that they don't want to provide services that are
required under the law and under Roe v Wade that they could individually
decide to not follow the law. The answer to that question is no."
[Attorney] General Coakley's view is legally problematic in several ways.
As Attorney General, she has sworn an oath to uphold the laws of the state
of Massachusetts. Those laws unequivocally protect the right of Christian
doctors to work in emergency rooms and every medical field according to
their pro-life beliefs: "A physician or any . . . employee of a . . . health
facility . . . shall not be required to participate in the medical
procedures which result in such abortion or sterilization . . . . The
refusal of any person who has made application to a medical, premedical,
nursing, social work, or psychology program in the commonwealth . . . shall
not form the basis for any discriminatory action against such person.
Conscientious objection to abortion shall not be . . . used in any way to
the detriment of the individual in any hospital, clinic, medical,
premedical, nursing, social work, or psychology school or state aided
program or institution which is supported in whole or in part by the
General Laws 112 Â§ 12I.
In addition, multiple federal laws specify that entities receiving
federal health funding are prohibited from discriminating against a health
care worker because he or she has a religious belief against assisting
abortion or other procedures, and medical schools may not deny degrees to
pro-life students in "emergency room" medicine or any other specialization.
U.S.C. Â§ 300a-7;42
U.S.C. Â§ 238n;Section
508 of the Labor, Health and Human Services, and Education, and Related
Agencies Appropriations Act, 2010.
[Attorney] General Coakley's opposition to conscience rights is
especially ironic in light of 42 U.S.C. 300a-7, which prohibits any
government or hospital receiving federal health funds from discriminating
against a health provider for objecting to abortion. When that amendment
passed 92-1 in the Senate in 1973, one of its enthusiastic bipartisan
supporters was Senator Edward Kennedy (D-Mass). On the Senate floor, Senator
Kennedy declared that the amendment's protection of health care workers from
being forced to violate their religious beliefs advanced the core value of
religious freedom in America: "Congress has the authority under the
Constitution to exempt individuals from any requirement that they perform
medical procedures that are objectionable to their religious convictions.
Indeed, in many cases, the Constitution itself is sufficient to grant an
exemption to protect persons from official acts that infringe on their free
exercise of religion." Senator Kennedy expressed his support for the
amendment "in order to give full protection to the religious freedom of
physicians and others." 119 Congr. Record 9602 (March 27, 1973).
So Attorney General Coakley opposes what the law says in 42 USC 300a-7
because of the constitutional "right" to abortion, whereas Sen. Kennedy
enthusiastically voted for that law two months after Roe because of the
constitutional right to religious freedom. Sen. Kennedy acted on his belief
that religious freedom certainly requires absolute conscience protection
against threats to require people to do abortions legalized in Roe. Attorney
General Coakley instead believes that Roe's abortion mandate requires people
to do abortions in violation of religious freedom or those people shouldn't
be allowed to practice medicine.
According to [Attorney] General Coakley's attitude, religious freedom
means the "freedom" for Christians to be driven from the caring professions
altogether. Yet despite being opposed to the law, [Attorney] General
Coakley's view is consistent with the anti-conscience attitude of elite
members of medical academia. In April 2009, the prestigious New England
Journal of Medicine featured the comments of Dr. Julie Cantor who summed up
their beliefs about "religious freedom": "Qualms about abortion,
sterilization, and birth control? Do not practice women's health." New
England Journal of Medicine, Vol 360, Pg 1484.
What anti-conscience advocates ignore is that their views will deny
reproductive health care to the millions of Americans who want pro-life
doctors. Women will have no right to have their babies delivered by doctors
who don't do abortions, or to have their fertility cured by doctors who use
only natural fertility methods, because those doctors won't exist. And aging
patients will have no right to a doctor who promises never to assist
suicides. All such doctors won't be able to get or keep their medical
degrees or licenses because policy makers and elites will decide that they
"probably shouldn't work in" medicine.
Conscience attackers claim to support an absolute right of patients to
receive any legal care. But these advocates and politicians don't even
believe their own rhetoric. They propose to deny the right of Americans to
access medical care provided by committed pro-life doctors-care which is
legal-because advocates would exclude all such doctors from medicine.
Anti-conscience advocates believe in the right of patients to access death,
but not anything else. In their view, the only procedures Americans have a
"right" to demand are the death-dealing procedures that anti-life advocates
are themselves selling, or procedures being sold by their large campaign
ADF is litigating several cases where, for example, a nurse was
threatened with her job and license unless she assisted a late-term
abortion, pharmacists may lose their licenses if they don't dispense drugs
that can kill embryos, a social work graduate student was expelled for
refusing to approve homosexual behavior, and a counselor was fired for
politely referring a homosexual client to another competent counselor.
The conscience battle is raging. Its advocates are unapologetically
trying to strip away the laws that still exist to protect conscience rights,
even laws which they themselves are supposed to be enforcing.