By Jonathan Imbody
If you are a health professional who follows the Hippocratic oath’s proscription against abortion, should a government-funded hospital be allowed to coerce you to participate in abortions against your professional ethics and personal conscience?
Nurse Cathy DeCarlo faced just such coercion, despite her agreement with a hospital that she would not participate in abortions, due to her moral and ethical conscience convictions. The fateful day came when hospital supervisors suddenly demanded she participate in an upcoming abortion, threatening her with a charge of insubordination and abandoning her patient if she refused.
“They threatened my job and my nursing license if I did not take part in the murder of that baby. I felt violated and betrayed,” Cathy recalls. Forced to count the body parts of the baby torn apart during the abortion, she says, “It was like something out of a horror film.”
Such nightmarish situations tragically are not uncommon in health care, especially for pro-life and faith-centered health professionals.
A national scientific survey that then-pollster Kellyanne Conway and I designed some years ago found that virtually all faith-based health professionals say it is vital to “make sure that healthcare professionals in America are not forced to participate in procedures or practices to which they have moral objections.”
Our survey results also highlighted a key understanding: Conscience protections protect patient access to health care. Many poor and underserved population patients depend on faith-based health care, and if government policies force those professionals and institutions out of medicine, millions of patients stand to lose their health care.
Faith-based professionals and hospitals do not and cannot separate their faith motivation to serve the needy from their faith convictions to protect human life.
That’s why over 9 in 10 of faith-based health professionals agreed with our survey question, “I would rather stop practicing medicine altogether than be forced to violate my conscience.”
A follow-up survey that Heart and Mind Strategies and I designed in 2019 found that well over a third of faith-based health professionals “experience pressure from or discrimination by faculty or administrators based on your moral, ethical, or religious beliefs.”
Three in five said it is common “that doctors, medical students or other healthcare professionals face discrimination for declining to participate in activities or provide medical procedures to which they have moral or religious objections.”
The survey helped provide a statistical basis for a commonsense conscience rule promulgated in 2019 by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. That rule helped protect Hippocratic, pro-life and faith-based health professionals simply by detailing and highlighting the enforcement of decades of bipartisan federal conscience laws.
The pro-abortion Biden administration now is moving to drive those same professionals out of medicine. The Biden HHS, headed by Xavier Becerra, the former attorney general of California who promoted the abortion industry and persecuted pro-life individuals, has announced the intention to get rid of the existing HHS conscience protection rule.
The ill-considered move threatens to imperil patients’ health care access and promises to pump up the coffers of the abortion industry, in part by permitting grant stipulations that prevent conscience-observing, life-protecting health groups from competing for government grants. The move delights Democrat campaign funders like Planned Parenthood, a $1.5 billion business that rakes in over half a billion dollars ($618.1 million) annually in taxpayer funding while performing over a third of a million (354,871) abortions.
Meanwhile, pro-life and faith-based groups are fighting the rule change and getting fact- and statute-based objections on the record with government agencies. Such official objections can bolster later lawsuits over the rule change.
Most Americans recoil at the thought of our government penalizing individuals for their conscience convictions. Such anti-conscience coercion undermines the foundational right to think and act freely, a cornerstone of human rights and a free society.
Nevertheless, this administration is expected to continue the withdrawal of the good conscience rule in the same bull-headed, tone-deaf, life-trampling fashion that it withdrew from Afghanistan.
Thankfully, Americans soon will have opportunity to realign policy with human rights and the Constitution, by electing a pro-life, faith-respecting Congress and administration.
Editor’s note. Jonathan Imbody is a public policy consultant and writer at FaithSteps.net and has several decades of experience in federal health policy. This originally appeared at Washington Times.