Liberty Counsel Files Public Comment for Conscience Regulation to Protect Healthcare Providers

Apr 7, 2009

Washington, D.C. – Liberty Counsel has filed a public comment with the United States Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) opposing President Barack Obama’s proposed repeal of the Provider Conscience Regulation (73 Fed. Reg. 50,274). If the regulation is repealed, then healthcare providers could be forced to participate in abortions and other ethically controversial practices in violation of their moral or religious beliefs at the risk of losing their jobs or board certifications.

The purpose of the Conscience Regulation is to protect healthcare providers from invidious discrimination when they rely upon their moral or religious beliefs, particularly when confronted with a request to perform an abortion. The idea of a conscience regulation is not new. The Conscience Regulation merely makes healthcare providers aware of their rights, enforces already-existing federal laws, and gives healthcare providers a remedy when they face discrimination based upon their moral or religious beliefs.

The Conscience Regulation is vitally important to any healthcare provider who feels compelled not to perform abortions or refer patients to receive abortions. Without the Regulation, healthcare providers will be forced to either perform abortions or leave the medical field. Overturning the Regulation will also have the effect of worsening existing healthcare shortages and robbing women of the ability to choose pro-life healthcare.

Repealing the Conscience Regulation will affect not only individual healthcare providers, but also many religiously affiliated hospitals. A number of Roman Catholic bishops have threatened to engage in civil disobedience or to close healthcare facilities rather than perform abortions. Other religiously affiliated hospitals may likewise cease operations. Thus, repealing the Conscience Regulation would have a negative impact on the provision of healthcare even beyond the realm of abortion. No person should be forced to be involved in medical practices that go against the strong dictates of conscience.

Thomas Jefferson once said, “No provision in our Constitution ought to be dearer to man than that which protects the rights of conscience against the enterprises of the civil authority.”

Mathew D. Staver, Founder of Liberty Counsel and Dean of Liberty University School of Law, commented: “Protecting conscience from the heavy hand of the law is the very essence of liberty. Rather than reducing abortion or the so-called culture war, President Barack Obama has funded abortion and now seeks to force conscientious objectors to participate in abortion. If we fail to protect healthcare providers, the consequences will be far reaching. When civil government tramples upon a person’s conscience, tyranny cannot be far away.”