Hit job on new HHS division formed to protect rights of pro-life medical personnel

By Dave Andrusko

Read this headline and subhead, and ask yourself what the average reader’s first thoughts might be–“Trump Appointee Harnesses Civil-Rights Law to Protect Anti-Abortion Health Workers: Effort extends legal protections to those refusing to participate in procedures for religious reasons.”

Well before we talk about what Stephanie Armour’s take is in her story that appeared in today’s Wall Street Journal, here’s my guess.

What? People with religious objections (or as a matter of conscience) are not protected from being co-opted by the Abortion Industry? Surely an entirely ideology that is based on “choice” ought to be open—indeed eager—to allow pro-lifers to be excused from participation in any way with the taking of unborn life.

But, of course, they are not. We’ll return to that in a second.

Armour’s profile is of Roger Severino, head of the Department of Health and Human Services’ Conscience and Religious Freedom Division. As you recall, back in January, we wrote about the announcement of the formation of the new division.

This was a very, very important move which NRLC President Carol Tobias rightly praised:

“We are pleased to see this new division in the face of a growing number of actions by some state governments to compel participation in abortions by health care providers and others, and because the Obama Administration had effectively adopted a non-enforcement policy with respect to existing federal conscience-protection laws.

“Rights of conscience are extremely important to the right-to-life movement to protect medical professionals, religious institutions, and employers from being forced to participate in abortion.”

But to Armour this means (as she pronounces in her first sentence)”The Trump administration is pursuing a significant shift toward a more conservative health-care agenda, expanding the use of civil-rights laws to defend health-industry workers who object to medical procedures on religious grounds.”

By the third paragraph, we’re already on notice that this is small potatoes, worse yet perhaps even subversive:

Rather than focus on racial minorities, women or other groups typically associated with movements to ensure civil rights, Mr. Severino says his new Conscience and Religious Freedom Division will defend the rights of the deeply religious, whom he sees as an oppressed class in need of protection.

Critics, amply quoted, of course, scoff at the idea that believers can be coerced into violating their beliefs. They are, we’re snootily informed, “more often the perpetrators of injustice than victims of it.”

To his credit Severino is having none of this. Armour writes

Doctors, nurses and others with deeply held religious beliefs, he says, have been coerced into violating their principles on abortion or assisted suicide. “Times are changing,” he says.

“We are institutionalizing a change in the culture of government, beginning at HHS, to never forget that religious freedom is a primary freedom, that it is a civil right.”

I’m going to talk about this more in a separate post, hopefully later today, but let me end with a keen insight from bioethicist Wesley J. Smith in his analysis of an article written by abortionist Lisa Harris.

I believe the real reason the medical establishment, the secular Left, and bioethicists like [Ezekiel ] Emanuel and (I believe) Harris oppose strong legal conscience protections is precisely due to the powerful moral message sent when a respected doctor or nurse says to a patient: “No. I can’t do this thing you request. It is wrong.”

There is an old saying in pro-abortion advocacy: “If you don’t believe in abortion, don’t have one.”

To which I add a medical-conscience corollary: If you want an abortion, don’t force a doctor to give you one.