Proposed rule would protect doctors from discrimination

The uproar over a modest proposal by the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) reveals a widening culture chasm in healthcare, created by disparate views of medical ethics and civil rights.

When HHS recently proposed a regulation to finally implement 35 years of civil liberty laws protecting conscience rights in healthcare, opponents railed against an alleged conspiracy to “deny women access to contraception.”

That’s quite an implausible protest against an agency that this year will spend over $1.6 billion on “family planning” programs.

The real reason for the abortion lobby’s protest stems from years of frustration in attempts to persuade physicians to violate their commitment to heal and to the Hippocratic Oath’s prohibition on abortion and the mandate to “do no harm.” The last remaining strategy to achieve their goal of involving more physicians is to literally force them to perform or refer patients for abortions, through state laws and medical organization policies forbidding the exercise of conscientious objection.

The only thing standing in the way of that coercive agenda is implementation of federal civil rights law.

Ironically, coercive laws and policies, though instigated in the name of insuring access to women’s healthcare, in fact threaten to significantly decrease access — by eliminating physicians who hold to life-affirming standards of medical ethics.

Discrimination and coercion appear to be infiltrating many sectors of medicine. Over 40 percent of our members report having experienced pressure to compromise their commitment to medical ethics standards. Medical school applicants with life-affirming values report discrimination in entrance interviews. Residents report being denied clinical learning opportunities because they refused to perform abortions. Physicians report the loss of jobs and academic promotions based on their life-affirming stances.

The public likewise remains ignorant of existing federal civil rights protections. A scientific national survey by The Polling Company Inc. revealed that 42 percent of American adults incorrectly believe that federal law obliges a physician to either perform or refer for abortions.

The HHS regulation is urgently needed to remedy discrimination and coercion in healthcare before patients lose access to some of our best and most compassionate medical professionals.

By implementing existing conscience-protecting laws and by initiating education, the regulation can take a vital step toward restoring a culture in medicine that honors professional standards and respects civil rights.

Ashburn, Va.

Name Cabinets now

From Denny Freidenrich, First Strategies LLC

With the financial markets in turmoil, I wish the two presidential candidates would tell us more about the people they’d like to include in their administrations.

In many ways, I am more interested to know whom Sen. Barack Obama (D-Ill.) plans to nominate as treasury secretary than I am to hear him rehash his Iraqi exit strategy. Ditto for Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) and his ideas about whom the next chairman of the Securities and Exchange Commission ought to be.

I am a realist, so let me be the first to say I doubt that either McCain or Obama will trip over himself to disclose his list of administration nominees.

Still, there is a lot of time between now and November, so shouldn’t we at least put the issue on the table? Former Rep. Jack Kemp (R-N.Y.), Bob Dole’s running mate in 1996, thought we should eight years ago. That’s when he and retired Sen. George Mitchell (D-Maine) both endorsed the idea on “Larry King Live.” Mitchell even went so far as to say he expected the first such announcements to come during the 2004 presidential campaign.

Close examination of the key players in both the Obama and McCain camps reveals differences in style and assumptions that guarantee conflicting views about the economy.

I think it’s safe to say GOP insiders are more likely than their Democratic counterparts to argue that “less government intervention” is the solution to our current financial crisis. Obama knows he’s on a tightrope — to convince voters that his recovery plan not only will minimize the pain people are feeling today, but actually will improve America’s economic outlook going forward.

I have strong doubts that neither presidential candidate can pull this off by himself. That’s why I believe the smart political move is to announce potential members of a McCain or Obama administration now.

Laguna Beach, Calif.