The unceasing attack on right of conscience, even in Catholic Institutions

By Dave Andrusko

Among the panoply of positive actions the Trump Administration has taken, one we’ve highlighted repeatedly are the efforts HHS has taken to protect the right of conscience. The right not to be forced to comply with, or be a party to, actions that violate your conscience is not only important to us as individuals, it also sends a message to the wider culture.

In spite of all that’s being done at the federal level, the National Catholic Register’s Mary Rose Short provided a chilling reminder today that following one’s conscience can be costly even for medical professionals working in Catholic institutions. 

Here is her lead:

Despite federal and state laws designed to protect conscience rights, Catholic medical professionals and their advocates report that health-care institutions routinely pressure their employees to provide or refer for services to which they morally object — and Catholic institutions are not immune to this tendency.

Francis Manion, senior counsel with the American Center for Law and Justice (ACLJ), told the Register that these conflicts are “quite common.” The ACLJ’s mission of defending constitutional liberties includes safeguarding the conscience rights of medical personnel.

“In just the past two weeks,” Manion told the Register last month, “I have spoken with a nurse threatened with termination for questioning her hospital’s allowing an abortion to be performed, a doctor threatened with firing over her request to be accommodated when faced with administering a certain drug that she believes is an abortifacient, and a technician told he must sign a form that would effectively require him to participate in abortions whenever his employer unilaterally decides that patient care requires him to.”

Just as it requires an Administration dedicated to protecting the right of conscience to create an office within HHS office dedicated to enhancing protections for health-care workers, so, too, do federal conscience statutes depend on the government itself for enforcement, as Manion pointed out to the Register. This the Trump Administration is dedicated to do. There would be zero chance a Biden Administration would keep the Conscience and Religious Freedom division, let alone enforce the statutes.

Roger Severino, Director of the Office for Civil Rights

Roger Severino, who spoke at a National Right to Life convention, is director of the Office for Civil Rights. Short writes that Severino

said that employers’ discrimination against medical professionals because of their ethical or religious principles creates “an extraordinary moral injury.”

“There’s a movement that tries to squelch dissent on the question of abortion so that those that stand up for life are being systematically driven out of the medical profession,” Severino said. “Nobody should be fired from their position as a medical professional because they refuse to participate in the taking of a human life in abortion. It’s illegal, if you receive federal funds. You may expect an enforcement action from the HHS Office for Civil Rights, if you do such a thing.”

Of course at the same time the Trump Administrations labors to increase conscience protections, pro-abortionists diligently strive to shrink them.

“There’s a real issue out here where people feel their rights have been violated and that they need redress and I think that explains the big growth in the number of complaints,” Severino said in 2019. “It’s been long overdue that they need attention.”