Christian Medical Association Physicians Gain Support from Congress and States in Court Fight Against Discriminatory Firing

States and Members of Congress file brief supporting conscience rule protections

News Release

For immediate release

Christian Medical and Dental Associations (USA)

Washington, DC—May 26, 2020 – Christian Medical Association physicians (CMA*, www.cmda.org) received support from states, Members of Congress, minority groups, medical affiliate organizations, and legal experts who recently filed legal briefs in a case regarding a federal conscience protection rule for health professionals.

In New York v. HHS, CMA and Dr. Regina Frost are defending against attempts by states that want to discriminate against doctors and nurses who refuse to violate their consciences and medical judgment by performing procedures such as abortions or physician-assisted suicide. This case is now in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit.

CMA CEO Dr. Mike Chupp noted, “As a general surgeon who did patient care for over 30 years, my professional judgment has been based upon available medical evidence, training and experience, and a deep sense of obligation to care for my patients in a way that best benefits their health. The conscientious practice of medicine depends upon the integration of these factors by a healthcare professional. The informed conscience of every healthcare professional serves as an inner compass for the best kind of patient care. The HHS conscience rule affirms that our CMA members must be protected from violating their deeply held beliefs as they seek to serve all patients with excellence and compassion.”

CMA Senior Vice President for Bioethics and Public Policy and Obstetrician-Gynecologist, Dr. Jeffrey Barrows noted, “As an Ob-Gyn physician, I have delivered many babies of mothers and fathers who specifically sought a life-affirming physician for their care. The conscience rule not only upholds and enforces decades of federal law passed on a bipartisan basis; it also helps ensure that patients will have a choice of life-affirming physicians who match their values.

“All health care professionals must have the freedom to practice medicine without being forced to violate their conscience. The updated conscience rule released by HHS in 2019 ensures this freedom, establishing conscience protections for all health care professionals, regardless of faith background.”

Evidence indicates that conscience protections help ensure patient access to healthcare at a time of physician shortages nationally. National polling commissioned by CMA and conducted in 2019 by an independent polling firm found that while faith-based health professional respondents overwhelmingly said that they care for all patients regardless of agreement with patients’ choices, none of ten said that being required to violate their consciences would force them to leave the practice of medicine.

For more information on the court case and access to the amicus briefs, see https://www.becketlaw.org/case/new-york-v-hhs/.

For legal perspectives and attorney interviews, contact Ryan Colby: media@becketlaw.org, 202-349-7219.


*The Christian Medical Association serves approximately 19,000 members and, along with the Christian Dental Association, forms the Christian Medical & Dental Associations.

Broad support to protect doctors, nurses from discriminatory firing

Medical groups, minorities, legal experts line up against New York’s attempt to block healthcare anti-discrimination law

News Release

For immediate release

Becket Law

WASHINGTON – A diverse group of states, Members of Congress, minority groups, medical affiliate organizations, and legal experts recently filed half-a-dozen briefs supporting the U.S. Department of Health and Human Service’s (HHS) Conscience Rule, which provides federal conscience protections for medical professionals. 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 states to discriminate against doctors and nurses who refuse to violate their consciences and medical judgment by performing procedures such as abortions or physician-assisted suicide.  This case is now in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit.

Highlights from the friend-of-the-court filings in New York v. HHS:

  • A congressional brief filed by dozens of Members of Congress explained why the new rule’s provisions flowed directly from unchallenged—and bipartisan—statutory protections for medical conscience that have been on the books for decades.
  • Former Senator Coats and former Representative Weldon (the named sponsors of two key statutory conscience protections for healthcare providers) filed their own brief in support, explaining why conscience protections are important for health care providers and how the government’s new regulation supports key bipartisan statutory protections that have long been on the books.
  • The Jewish Coalition for Religious Liberty and the Coalition for Jewish Values also highlighted the disproportionate impact that New York’s lawsuit would have on medical professionals of minority faiths.
  • The Center for Constitutional Jurisprudence explained why this new rule helps the government better enforce existing federal conscience protections.
  • A coalition of medical professional organizations—including the American College Of Pediatricians, the Catholic Medical Association, and the National Catholic Bioethics Center—filed a brief highlighting ongoing threats to medical professionals of faith and explaining why this rule will help ensure medical providers cannot be coerced by employers to either violate their conscience or lose their job.

“Healthcare is one area where protecting conscience is particularly vital,” said Ohio Attorney General Dave Yost, in a brief on behalf of sixteen states. “That is why Congress has routinely enacted laws to ensure that these professionals can provide care without violating their beliefs.”

Polling from last year shows that religious healthcare professionals are committed to serving all patients, but face increasing pressures to engage in procedures such as abortions that violate their faith, which could force over ninety percent of religious doctors out of the medical field.  The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) issued a Conscience Rule last year to better enforce bipartisan laws that, for decades, have promised to allow religious doctors, nurses and healthcare professionals to serve patients without facing employment discrimination directed against their consciences. The Rule simply clarifies and enforces existing federal statutes designed to ensure religious health professionals won’t be forced out of the practice of medicine by entities that voluntarily choose to accept federal tax money. But, led by the State of New York, several states and abortion providers are suing to keep the federal funds while preventing the government from enforcing the conscience protections that they agreed to when they accepted the funds.

“It is encouraging to see this broad coalition stand up in support of conscience rights,” said Dr. Regina Frost. “I hope the Court will recognize that the Rule simply enforces common-sense, bipartisan protections that protect both medical professionals from unjust discrimination and patients from losing their doctors.”

Dr. Frost is an OB-GYN and one of nearly 19,000 medical professionals in CMDA serving the sick and vulnerable in the United States and abroad. 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. New York’s lawsuit needlessly threatens the health and well-being of at-risk, underserved populations across the globe.

Dr. Frost and CMDA are also represented by Allyson Ho and Daniel Nowicki of Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher LLP.

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.


Additional Information

Case Page: New York v. HHS

Link: Friend-of-the-Court Briefs in New York v. HHS

Legal Doc: Order in New York v. HHS 11/06/2019

Link: Media Kit

Indiana assisted suicide bill fails to protect objecting practitioners

Assisted suicide evolves from “assistance” to  “medical care”

Affirmation has serious consequences for objecting  Indiana physicians

Sean Murphy*

On 7 January, 2020, Representative Matt Pierce introduced HB1020: End of life options in the Indiana General Assembly. HB1020 is the fourth assisted suicide bill introduced by Pierce since 2017; three previous bills died in committee without hearings. Parts of HB1020 relevant to protection of conscience are reproduced on the Project website.

Overview

The bill permits physician assisted suicide for Indiana residents 18 years of age and older who have been diagnosed with a terminal illness likely to cause death within six months. [Full text]

New Hampshire assisted suicide bill introduced

Protection of conscience provision biased against objectors

Sean Murphy*

New Hampshire House Bill 1659 would legalize assisted suicide. Parts of the bill relevant to protection of conscience are reproduced on the Project website.

The bill permits physician assisted suicide for New Hampshire residents 18 years of age and older who have been diagnosed with a terminal illness likely to cause death within six months. Candidates who are capable of making and  communicating health care decisions must apply in writing for a lethal prescription (137-M:3); the application must be witnessed by two independent witnesses (137-M:4).  The candidate must apply personally; substitute medical decision makers cannot apply on behalf of a patient (137-M:3.III).

The bill imposes a number of obligations on physicians primarily responsible for treating a patient’s terminal illness (137-M:5) and upon physicians consulted by them about the illness (137-M:6).  These would be unacceptable to physicians who refuse to participate in assisted suicide for reasons of conscience.

Section 137-M:14 (Immunities) is the provision that is intended to protect objecting health care providers, which includes individuals and health care facilities.  The protection offered is biased in favour of those willing to participate in assisted suicide and insufficient to protect those unwilling to do so.  Specifically:

  • 139-M:14.I limits protection against civil, criminal and professional liability to persons willing to participate in assisted suicide; no protection is provided for those who refuse. It also prevents objecting institutional health care providers from taking action against employees who participate in assisted suicide on their premises.
  • 139-M:14.II protects both participants and non-participants equally, but also prevents objecting institutional health care providers from taking action against individuals who ignore prohibitions against assisted suicide on their premises.
  • 139-M14.III protects those providing assisted suicide drugs against negligence complaints, but does not similarly protect those who refuse to provide assisted suicide drugs.
  • 139-M14.IV declares that no health care provider is under a duty to participate in assisted suicide.  However, the provision is ambiguous because it is inconsistent with the lack of protection noted in 139-M4.I and III. 

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.