Friday, August 29, 2008

Action Alert! Planned Parenthood vs. Common Sense on Conscience Rights - Respond Now!

Thursday, August 28, 2008 at 3:40 PM

Michael Leavitt, Secretary of Health and Human Services, has formally proposed regulations to give teeth to existing conscience-rights laws. Simply put, the regulations would ensure that federally funded health-care facilities cannot retaliate against pro-life doctors and other health-care workers who decline to perform abortions or other objectionable practices. Predictably, Planned Parenthood and other anti-life organizations are mobilizing to stop these regulations from being implemented, and you can help to counter their deceptive rhetoric.

It’s time for action! Click here to tell HHS that you support the proposed regulations. Click here to ask your Member of Congress and U.S. Senators to support the administration’s position. Click here to send a letter to the editor of your local newspaper drawing attention to the proposed regulations.

The regulations, as proposed, are both an enforcement of decades-old federal laws and simple common sense. Their premise is that a doctor, nurse or other health-care professional who is morally opposed to abortion, sterilization or other procedures should not be forced to participate in one. Hospitals and other health-care facilities that receive federal funding would have to certify that they do not participate in “coercive or discriminatory policies or practices in violation of federal law.”

The genesis of these regulations dates to 1973, when Congress passed what is known as the Church Amendment to the Public Health Service Act. In the wake of the U.S. Supreme Court’s Roe v. Wade decision, Congress passed the amendment to ensure that recipients of federal funds were not required to perform abortions or sterilizations.

In 1996, Congress passed another law that to prevent discrimination against corporate and individual health-care providers that do not provide, train in or refer for abortions. A third law, passed in 2004 and approved annually since then in appropriations legislation, provides that neither the federal government nor state governments can require physicians, nurses, hospitals, health-benefit plans or other providers to perform, pay for, provide coverage for or refer for abortions.

Despite the clear intent of Congress, however, some professional organizations have re-defined their standards to make the exercise of conscience an unprofessional act, putting doctors and others at risk of losing jobs or professional credentials. As a result, according to the text of the HHS document, “the Department is concerned that the public and many health care providers are largely uninformed of the protections afforded to individuals and institutions under these provisions. This lack of knowledge within the health professions can be detrimental to conscience and other rights, particularly for individuals and entities with moral objections to abortion and other medical procedures.”

Federal courts have uniformly upheld these laws and other conscience-protection provisions. It’s clear, then, that HHS’ proposed regulations don’t break any new legal ground. Neither do they stray from the intent of Congress or any administration going back to the Nixon administration.

These are uncomfortable and inconvenient truths for the death industry and Planned Parenthood, at least, is responding to the facts by ignoring them. Listen to this bluster from Cecile Richards, president of the Planned Parenthood Federation of America, in a recent fundraising letter to supporters:

“You can bet that anti-choice activists are thrilled that President Bush made good on his promise to them. This rule will allow them to receive federal funds for so-called "crisis pregnancy centers" — anti-choice facilities whose purpose (sic) is to deceive and dissuade women from accessing birth control and abortion information and services. . . .

“A woman’s ability to manage her own health care is at risk of being compromised by politics and ideology. The new regulation complicates rather than clarifies the law. It lets health care providers define abortion, which could threaten access to birth control and broader reproductive health care. This is just one more instance of the Bush administration putting politics in the exam room.”

Richards is entitled to her own opinion, but she isn’t entitled to her own facts. If she has a beef with the Bush administration, for example, she also opposes policies upheld by former President Bill Clinton – arguably the friendliest to her cause of any chief executive in history – and every other President of the past four decades. The final proposed regulation doesn’t even include the definition of “abortion” that so many anti-life advocates claimed would reduce the availability of contraceptives.

Incredibly, and unfortunately, there are people in this nation who will take Cecile Richards seriously on this issue, and they will ask the government to abandon this common-sense proposal. We need thousands of values voters to add their voices to this debate before the comment period ends Sept. 20.