The Battle for Conscience Rights Rages On

National Catholic Register

Michael Warsaw

In February 2012, EWTN filed the first of its legal challenges against the Obama administration’s so-called “HHS mandate,” which would have forced organizations like EWTN and the Little Sisters of the Poor to provide contraception, abortion-inducing drugs and sterilization procedures as part of our employer-sponsored health-care plans. For EWTN, that legal battle went on for nearly seven years — and for the Little Sisters, even longer. At the heart of that fight was whether or not the government could force faith-based organizations to act contrary to their deeply held religious values and in violation of their conscience.

More than nine years later, the issue of conscience rights is again taking center stage in our national discussions as the Biden administration continues to ramp up its promotion of tax-funded abortion and “gender-transition” medical treatments.

Earlier in March, the Senate confirmed Xavier Becerra, a Catholic who dissents openly from the Church’s foundational moral teachings regarding the sanctity of human life and sexuality, as secretary of the Department of Health and Human Services. As attorney general of California, Becerra infamously filed suit to take away the religious exemptions protecting the Little Sisters of the Poor from the provisions of the HHS mandate. 

The Senate also confirmed Dr. Rachel Levine, a biological man who identifies as a transgender woman, as assistant secretary of the HHS. 

With these two officials at the helm, the HHS is certain to rapidly accelerate the Biden administration’s radical agenda of tax-funded abortion and mandatory gender-reassignment treatments, including for children and teens. . . continue reading

Equality Act’s Attack on Religious Liberty, Medical Conscience

National Review

Reproduced with permission

Wesley J. Smith

President Biden said during the campaign that he supported the Equality Act, which is being sold as a means of guaranteeing equality for LGBT people.

But it does more than that. It would destroy medical conscience by removing existing protections that permit doctors and nurses to refuse participation in abortion, and it would gut the Religious Freedom Restoration Act.

The Charlotte Lozier Institute’s associate scholar Richard Doerflinger explains in a white paper he authored on the bill. From “The ‘Equality Act’: Threatening Life and Equality:”

The Equality Act’s new freestanding ban on pregnancy discrimination . . . adds the new requirement for women to receive “treatment” for pregnancy that is as “favorable” as treatment for any other “physical condition” . . . . It provides rules of construction indicating that the new requirement should be interpreted as broadly as possible. . . . And it negates the existing religious freedom law that allows believers to seek an exemption from such requirements based on sincere religious beliefs such as respect for human life.

That’s the end of medical conscience, an aspect of freedom of religion that permits doctors and nurses to refuse to participate in the termination of pregnancies.

That’s not all. The bill guts the Religious Freedom Restoration Act as a defense against acts deemed discriminatory in the bill. Among other wrongs, this could force Catholic hospitals to permit sterilization, contraception, abortion, and transgender surgeries on premises despite their being prohibited by Catholic moral teaching.

Interestingly the ACLU once understood the importance of protecting Catholic hospitals from such impositions. It now supports the Equality Act:

It is notable that in 1992 the ACLU recognized a religious hospital’s right to decline involvement even in contraception. This is also a service related to pregnancy, so would presumably be required of religious hospitals under the Equality Act – as would removal of a woman’s healthy uterus, surgically sterilizing her, to facilitate her transition to a male gender identity.

As noted above, the Equality Act’s mandates and its elimination of any defense under the Religious Freedom Restoration Act would also reverse the outcome of Supreme Court cases on the Affordable Care Act, subjecting the Little Sisters of the Poor and other religious entities to a mandate for contraceptive and early abortifacient  coverage.

Read the whole paper. It is a sobering assessment.

The Equality Act is a blatant act of cultural imperialism and a high-priority agenda item for the new administration and the Democrat-controlled Congress. So much for “unity.”

Rules for doctors, pharmacists tightened in new religious discrimination bill

Sydney Morning Herald

Judith Ireland

A pharmacist could refuse to dispense contraception and a doctor could refuse to provide fertility treatment under the government’s proposed new religious discrimination laws, provided they declined to provide that particular service to all patients.

Attorney-General Christian Porter said the second draft of the religious discrimination bill, released on Tuesday, would allow doctors, nurses, midwives, pharmacists and psychologists to conscientiously object as long as it was “to a procedure, not a person”. . . [Full text]

Controversial conscience rights bill for Alberta physicians voted down

‘This is a very political thing and a very cynical thing and it is not about physicians’

CBC News

Wallis Snowdon

A controversial private member’s bill that called for more protection for Alberta health workers who invoke conscience rights was rejected Thursday by an all-party committee of the legislature. 

The Conscience Rights Act for Healthcare Workers, or Bill 207  — introduced by Peace River MLA and UCP (United Conservative Party) backbencher Dan Williams — would have meant doctors could not be sued or sanctioned for refusing to provide a service that goes against their moral beliefs. 

Some doctors and patient advocates said the bill would limit access to medical services such as contraception, abortion and assisted dying. . .[Full text]

Rally against ‘conscience rights’ Bill 207 gathers hundreds at legislature

CTV News

Alex Antoneshyn

EDMONTON — Criticism swelled on Saturday of a new private member’s bill that would undo a requirement of doctors to refer treatment or service which goes against their beliefs, as protestors rallied at the Alberta Legislature to express their concern.

Sanda Azocar, executive director of Friends of Medicare, called Bill 207, The Conscience Rights Protection Act, an unnecessary piece of proposed legislation that would cause discrimination and harm. . . [Full text]