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March 6, 2009
OBAMA EXPECTED TO RESCIND CONSCIENCE PROTECTION REGULATION

Press reports indicate that the Obama administration will publish a notice in the Federal Register early next week announcing that it is planning to change a regulation, issued by HHS at the end of the Bush administration, that requires healthcare facilities to certify their compliance with federal laws protecting medical personnel from discrimination if they refuse to participate in procedures that violate their conscience on religious or moral grounds.

The Chairman of the House Republican Conference, Congressman Mike Pence (R-IN), issued a statement on February 27 in which he said, "For more than 35 years, Congress has required by law that the conscience of healthcare providers be protected from discrimination. Any attempt by the President to weaken these protections would reverse the clear intent of Congress. Weakening the conscience protections of healthcare providers would not only undermine their moral beliefs, but also have a devastating impact on the patients who rely upon their services."

The statement included the following Note: The Bush regulations, finalized and implemented on January 20, 2009, enforce 35-year-old provisions in current law that are intended to provide conscience protection for healthcare entities and providers. The Bush regulations prevent local entities from discriminating against them if they refuse to provide, pay for, or refer for abortion.


BACKGROUND ON CONSCIENCE PROTECTION LAWS

In 1973, Congress passed the Church Amendment to protect the conscience rights of hospitals and health care providers from forced involvement in abortion. The Amendment provides that the receipt of federal funds in various health programs will not require hospitals or individuals to participate in abortions, if they object based on moral or religious convictions. It also forbids hospitals in these programs to make willingness or unwillingness to perform these procedures a condition of employment.

In 1976, Congress passed the Hyde Amendment to the Labor/Health Education and Welfare Appropriations Bill to protect the consciences of taxpayers who object to paying for abortions with their tax dollars. A version of this amendment has been adopted every year since 1976.

The Hyde-Weldon Conscience Protection Amendment was passed by Congress as part of the Fiscal Year 2005 Labor, Health and Human Services and Education Appropriations bill. The measure prohibits the disbursement of Labor/HHS/ED funds to federal agencies and programs and state and local governments that discriminate against healthcare providers who decline to provide, pay for or refer for abortions.


DISCRIMINATION HAPPENS

David Stevens, CEO of the Christian Medical Association, issued a statement on February 27, 2009 in which he addressed concerns about discrimination against healthcare providers. "The Obama administration claims, without offering a shred of statistical evidence, that the regulation has 'created confusion' and will somehow hinder access to healthcare. What can be clearer than not using federal funds to force healthcare professionals to violate longstanding principles of medical ethics like the Hippocratic Oath, which guided medicine for over two millennia? The real threat to healthcare access is driving out every healthcare professional who conscientiously practices medicine according to life-affirming ethical standards.

"An informal survey of our members showed that over 40 percent report being pressured to violate ethical standards. Physicians report losing positions and promotions because of their life-affirming views. Residents report losing training privileges because they refused to do abortions. Medical students report changing career tracks away from obstetrics for fear of pressure to do abortions. The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists has officially asserted that it expects every obstetrician to participate in abortions, either through procedure or referral."

The rule affects an estimated 584,000 entities including 4,800 hospitals, 234,000 doctor's offices and 58,000 pharmacies. According to Dr. Stevens who gave an interview to the Los Angeles Times on December 2, 2008, "The real battle line is the morning-after pill," he said. "This prevents the embryo from implanting. This involves moral complicity. Doctors should not be required to dispense a medication they have a moral objection to."


THE RULE AND WHAT TO DO ABOUT IT

The Bush administration's Secretary of the Department of Health and Human Services established the regulation in question. Simply said, it requires institutions that get federal (taxpayer) funding to certify their compliance with the laws described above protecting conscience rights. It was intended to block the flow of taxpayer dollars to hospitals and other institutions that ignore the rights of religious and moral objectors. (Associated Press, 2/29/09)

Early next week, we expect a notice to appear in the Federal Register describing the Obama administration's plan to either rescind or weaken the regulation. Once that happens, there will be a 30-day period during which HHS will invite public comment. That is where we come in.

We will provide you with information on how to frame your comments along with how, where, and to whom they should be addressed.

Please circulate this information to your friends and colleagues so that, as active and engaged citizens, they can participate along with you in affecting public policy in a positive and pro-life manner.

We all know that the Obama White House is determined to drastically alter the social and economic structures of the United States. But, this is still a government "of the people, by the people and for the people." We are the people and we will be heard!

We invite you to join in this effort to thwart the plans of President Obama and the abortion lobby through a massive public outcry, so that, at the end of the 30 days the conscience regulation will not be tampered with.


Never forget that YOU were once an embryo.

Republican National
Coalition for Life


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