U.S. bishops have previously asked Congress to pass the Conscience Protection Act.
National Catholic Register
WASHINGTON — A bill that would protect health care providers’ freedom to opt out of abortion mandates they find objectionable has once again been introduced in Congress.
“This bill is needed to give health care providers the right to provide medical care without violating their deeply held beliefs,” Sen. James Lankford, sponsor of the bill in the Senate, stated on Friday.
“Americans have very different views about abortion, but we should not force anyone to participate in it or provide coverage,” he added.
The Conscience Protection Act would protect health care providers from federal, state and local abortion mandates if they conscientiously object to assisting with abortions. It would also protect religious employers from having to cover elective abortions in their health plans and establishes a “right of action” for all entities if they believe their religious beliefs on the matter are violated. . . [Full text]
Around the world, policies and actions of many governments and governmental agencies are threatening rights of conscience of health care providers and employees. These challenges and dangers seem to be increasing.
Recent times have seen numerous high-profile incidents in which nurses, doctors, hospital staff, government employees, and other health care workers are being pressured, required and forced to provide morally-controversial elective procedures (such as non-therapeutic abortions) despite their expressed moral objections to participating in such services. [Full text]
A newly completed U.S. Department of Health and Human Services investigation of New York’s Mt. Sinai Hospital has resulted in additional policy and procedure changes to ensure that medical personnel are not forced to participate in abortions. Alliance Defending Freedom attorneys representing a Mt. Sinai nurse requested the HHS Office of Civil Rights investigation after the hospital forced her to assist in an abortion in violation of her religious beliefs in 2009.
The changes come in addition to a new policy the hospital adopted after Alliance Defending Freedom attorneys filed a lawsuit on behalf of the nurse, Cathy Cenzon-DeCarlo.
“Pro-life medical personnel shouldn’t be forced to participate in abortions, and the new policies and procedures at Mt. Sinai reflect that,” said Senior Legal Counsel Matt Bowman. “The hospital seems to have decided to do the right thing and respect the conscience rights of its employees, who are protected by both federal and state law. We will continue to monitor the situation to make sure that the new policy is followed.”
Mt. Sinai’s policy revision states, “It is the legal right of any individual to refuse to participate in these procedures.” The policy applies regardless of whether the abortion is classified as an elective or emergency procedure and provides a process for “alternative coverage” in the event a staff member opts not to participate.
As a result of the HHS investigation, Mt. Sinai agreed to go further by putting in writing that it will abide by federal conscience protection laws, train employees about the hospital’s obligation to those laws and how to properly keep records of those who are objecting or not objecting to participating in abortions, and update a Human Resource policy to state that the hospital will not engage in any form of employment discrimination based on an employee’s refusal to participate in an abortion.
Administrators at Mt. Sinai Hospital threatened DeCarlo with disciplinary measures in May 2009 if she did not honor a last-minute summons to assist in a scheduled late-term abortion. Despite the fact that the patient was apparently not in crisis at the time of the surgery, the hospital insisted on her participation in the procedure on the grounds that it was an “emergency,” even though the procedure was not classified by the hospital as such. The hospital has known of the Catholic nurse’s religious objections to abortion since 2004.
Alliance Defending Freedom attorneys asked HHS to investigate in March 2010 and filed, together with lead counsel and allied attorney Joseph Ruta, the lawsuit Cenzon-DeCarlo v. The Mount Sinai Hospital in Kings County Supreme Court the following month. The lawsuit argues that Mt. Sinai violated state conscience laws as well as state laws against religious employment discrimination and intentionally inflicting emotional distress on an individual. The suit, which is still ongoing, also includes five other claims based on DeCarlo’s coerced participation in the abortion. A federal court dismissed Cenzon-DeCarlo’s federal suit filed in July 2009.