The Scoop

July 22, 2009

Health Care News

Coerced Participation in Abortion: The Next Phase of Federal Health Policy?

The Alliance Defense Fund announced today that a lawsuit had been filed in federal court on behalf of a Catholic nurse who says her employer, Mount Sinai Hospital, forced her to assist in performing a late-term abortion in spite of her strongly held religious beliefs against abortion.

The suit alleges the nurse had repeatedly made her faith-based objections to assisting abortions clearly known to hospital administrators from the time she was hired, even signing a written statement stating her objection. It also states the hospital had a clear written policy preventing its employees from being required to participate in abortions. Nevertheless, the lawsuit alleges the hospital insisted that the nurse participate in the procedure just minutes before the scheduled “22-week age of gestation abortion,” and that staff shouted at her and threatened her with disciplinary action if she didn’t comply.

The basis of the lawsuit is found in the Church Amendments, a thirty-five year old federal “conscience clause” law prohibiting hospitals receiving certain federal funding from discriminating against employees who object to participating in abortions.

Earlier this year, President Obama moved to overturn the “conscience clause” regulation issued by the Bush Administration. The regulation provides for the enforcement of federal conscience protections, including the Church Amendments, for health care workers.

New concerns also surround the President’s health care reform legislation making its way through Congress, which would allow mandatory taxpayer funding of abortion. During mark-up of the Kennedy-Dodd health care bill, the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee approved provisions to require insurance plans to contract with organizations that perform abortions. In addition, several amendments were rejected that would have preserved states’ laws regulating abortion, prohibited federal funds from being used for abortions, and provided conscience protections for health care providers for not providing abortions.

Click here for a fact sheet assessing President Obama’s administrations’ impact on families.

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