It’s been brewing for a while, but now it’s official.
Last week, the Obama Administration jettisoned a Bush-era regulation that protected the conscience rights of health care workers, replacing it with a stripped-down version. The new regulations remove conscience protections from pharmacists and other health care workers, and limit the scope of remaining protections. While doctors and nurses still cannot be fired for refusing, on the basis of conscience, to perform abortions or sterilizations – others in the health care field will now be forced to participate in procedures and practices that may violate their deeply held religious convictions.
The Washington Post reported that the Bush protections “led pharmacists to refuse to fill prescriptions for the emergency contraceptive Plan B, doctors in California to reject a lesbian's request for infertility treatment, and an ambulance driver in Chicago to turn away a woman who needed transportation for an abortion.”
Under the new regs, those situations become firing offenses—workers must participate in medical procedures even if they believe those procedures are immoral and their consciences forbid them to cooperate.
Similarly, in response to angry complaints from pro-abortion feminists, Catholic hospitals are being investigated for refusing to allow “emergency” abortions in their facilities.
Ironically, the administration’s failure to respect the conscience rights of health care workers is likely to boomerang and result in less care for poor people, not more. According to the Christian Medical Association, over ninety percent of “faith-based physicians, who are among the most likely to be serving the poor and those in medically underserved areas....would rather leave the profession if denied the ability to practice medicine according to conscientiously held ethical standards.”