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Conscience protections for health-care providers should be standard

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There is a growing cognitive dissonance in the pro-choice crowd. They preach choice, but practice coercion. In the name of choice, the abortion lobby and their allies in Congress are insisting that medical professionals be compelled to perform abortions.

{mosads}Consider the case of nurse Cathy DeCarlo of Mt. Sinai Hospital in New York, who was Speaker Paul Ryan’s guest at the State of the Union this year. She was forced to assist in the abortion of a 22-week old unborn child, and was threatened with loss of her job and nursing license when she tried to refuse. Ms. DeCarlo became a nurse to help save people, not to assist in the dismemberment of a little life. She still has nightmares about what she was forced to do that day.


Speaker Ryan invited DeCarlo to Washington to demonstrate his strong support of the Conscience Protection Act (H.R.644), a provision in the House passed omnibus appropriations bill. This bill would provide protection for nurses like DeCarlo, and many like her who have testified that they, too, have been compelled to participate in abortion. Unfortunately, the Conscience Protection Act is at risk of being jettisoned in the ongoing negotiations over the final FY18 spending bill.

Conscience protections have a majority of support in both the House and Senate. The administration supports this provision. The question is, then, will a minority of pro-choice senators insist that Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) draw a line in the sand over coercing people to participate in abortion procedures? This pro-coercion stance is more than a bit ironic for “pro-choice” senators.

Not so long ago, there was a bipartisan consensus on conscience protections, and many supporters of abortion had respect for conscientious objectors. Leaders in the fight for expanded access to health care, like the vehemently pro-choice Sen. Ted Kennedy (D-Mass.), even fought for the inclusion of conscience rights for health-care workers. Similar conscience protections sailed through Congress on a bipartisan basis in the recent past. But the pro-coercion abortion lobby and their allies in Congress have grown more intolerant since then.

Fortunately, however, there is still broad public support for protecting medical professionals who don’t want to participate in or facilitate an abortion as a matter of conscience.

A poll conducted by Marist earlier this year on public opinion of abortion found that more than half of Americans — 56 percent — believe abortion is morally wrong. The poll found that a majority of Americans also believe that those who hold moral objections to abortion should not be legally required to perform abortion procedures or provide insurance coverage for abortions.

The Conscience Protection Act would also provide relief for those insurance plans that do not wish to cover a procedure regarded by many as the taking of a life. Some states, like California, have new laws that force private entities like churches, religious charities, and schools to pay for abortion in their healthcare plans. Again, laws like this shatter the bipartisan consensus that reigned for decades in health-care law. Sen. Ted Kennedy’s Health Insurance Bill of Rights Act of 1997 specified, in language that was considered standard:

“Any health insurance issuer may fully advise … enrollees … of the coverage’s limitations on providing particular medical services (including limitations on referrals for care outside the coverage) based on the religious and moral convictions of the issuer.”

The Conscience Protection Act is a common-sense bill that promotes respect for different points of view on a very sensitive issue. If there is any truth in the “pro-choice” label, those who claim it ought to respect those who’ve made a different choice — to protect life.

Maureen Malloy Ferguson is the senior policy adviser for The Catholic Association.

Tags Abortion Abortion debate Abortion in the United States Chuck Schumer Conscience Human reproduction Paul Ryan Reproductive rights Sexual reproduction

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