December 9, 2008
President Bush recently proposed regulations that would ensure that Department of Health and Human Services funds “do not support morally coercive or discriminatory practices or policies in violation of federal law.” This would, among other things, ensure that health care workers could opt out of performing abortions, or refuse to prescribe the “morning after” pill, without fear of losing their jobs.
The new regulations are badly needed to increase compliance with federal “conscience clause” laws—laws that are often ignored by state governments and courts.
When the Bush plan became public, the abortion lobby and its supporters went ballistic. Members of the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission told the Washington Post that the rule would “overturn 40 years of civil rights laws prohibiting job discrimination based on religion.” Absolute nonsense.
President-elect Obama was equally dramatic—and equally wrong. He claimed that the proposal would make it harder for women seeking abortions and contraceptives. Opponents of the Bush rule also claim existing laws already protect health care workers.
Well, they should—but they don’t. For instance, a St. Louis pharmacist was fired for refusing to dispense the morning-after pill. The California Supreme Court recently ruled against two fertility doctors who refused to provide in vitro fertilization to a lesbian couple. The doctors referred the women to another clinic. Yet the court saw fit to punish them for acting on their own religious beliefs.
If you dig deeply enough into these cases, you can’t help but realize that they are not about protecting access to abortion or the “morning after” pill or in vitro fertilization for lesbians; plenty of doctors and pharmacists provide them. Instead, they’re about forcing everyone, including religious believers, to shut up and follow the ideological line: that killing innocent babies and homosexual parenting are morally acceptable.
Unless the federal government does a better job of enforcing “conscience clause” laws, hospitals could, for instance, refuse to hire Christian doctors and nurses who refuse to perform abortions. That should really upset the equal-rights crowd.
In some states, there have already been attempts to force all pharmacists to prescribe abortifacients regardless of their beliefs. How long will it be before doctors are told they must perform abortions—regardless of their beliefs?
Possibly, not as long as you think. In Alaska, the state supreme court ruled that a privately run hospital must perform late-term abortions despite the objections of its governing board. Unbelievable!
The good news is that conscience-clause laws are far more popular with the public than they are with the extreme left. This is why we ought to be letting our leaders know we support these laws, and insist that the federal government do a better job of enforcing them. President-elect Obama will be reluctant to overturn a law with widespread public support—despite the demands of his radical pro-abortion supporters.
We ought to make sure, as well, that we tell Christian health care workers about their rights under federal law. Our doctors, nurses, and pharmacists should not be subjected to vicious attempts to force them to obey Caesar—or Moloch—over Christ.
Chuck Colson’s daily BreakPoint commentary airs each weekday on more than one thousand outlets with an estimated listening audience of one million people. BreakPoint provides a Christian perspective on today’s news and trends via radio, interactive media, and print.