April 18, 2024

Growing support for “conscience clause” in US health care

Doctors, nurses and pharmacists who have a conscientious objection to abortion, the morning-after pill or contraception are winning more support in the US Congress and in state legislatures, according to an AP report. Almost unnoticed, the US House of Representatives recently passed a provision that would prohibit local, state or federal authorities from forcing persons or institutions to provide abortions, even in cases of rape or medical emergency. Although the chance that it will survive scrutiny by the Senate is slim, some states are enacting even more liberal exemptions. Mississippi passed a law in July which allows health care workers to refuse almost any service they object to on moral or religious grounds.

Abortion supporters are alarmed. The Gay and Lesbian Medical Association recently launched a petition drive against what it calls refusal clauses”. And Gloria Feldt, president of Planned Parenthood, says, “We’ve seen increasing organisation and networking to get more pharmacists to refuse to provide EC [emergency contraception] — not just in the Bible Belt, but all over.” She claims that “It’s part of the anti-choice arrogance in which they believe they have the right to impose their ideology on everyone else.”

One of Feldt’s opponents, Karen Brauer, president of Pharmacists for Life, agrees that interest in “conscience clauses” is growing. She even argues that there should be no obligation to refer patients to a pro-abortion doctor. “Forced referral is stupid,” she says. “If we’re not going to kill a human being, we’re not going to help the customer go do it somewhere else.”