Legislation / Court Cases

Influencing Public Debate for Conscience Rights / Trying to Stop Erosion of the Right of Conscience

[updated 10 Sept 11]

The Case Against Pro-Life Physicians: Bias Begins at Med School Interview

Are pro-life students being unfairly flagged during interviews for medical school?

Imagine yourself, a senior in college, sitting in the middle of your dream medical-school interview. Because you have done your homework, the interview is going exceedingly well. You seem to have established a rapport with the interviewer, and your answers are crisp, clear and intelligent. It’s going so well that you are starting to feel confident regarding your chances of gaining admission.

That is, until the interviewer hits you with this question: “Suppose a young pregnant woman and her boyfriend come to you seeking an abortion. What would you do?”

What would you do? How would you answer? For pro-life medical-school candidates, there is only one answer: You counsel the couple not to have an abortion. The problem is that, in some cases, this answer could ruin the candidate’s chance of admission.

It is routine for medical-school admission interviews to include open-ended questions on ethical issues. Primarily, these questions are included in the process to see if students can articulate clearly and defend adequately their thoughts on complex issues. If this were the sole reason for their inclusion, questions about abortion and abortion access could play a legitimate role in the interview process. But that is often not the intent of such questions.

The reality is that many schools are using abortion-related questions to screen out pro-life candidates. This is despite the fact that federal law prohibits medical schools that receive federal funding from discriminating against candidates based upon their views on abortion.

While the law prohibits explicit discrimination against pro-life candidates, it does not prohibit schools from inquiring about abortion during the interviewing process. Unfortunately, this situation creates a loophole big enough to drive a truck through.

While no systematic study has been done — largely because many medical schools would be unwilling to take part — anecdotal evidence compiled over the last three decades … indicate that abortion-related questions are being used as a covert litmus test for admissions at some schools. For example, when it becomes apparent from an applicant’s answer that he is pro-life, interviewers can find other reasons to deny the candidate admission rather than explicitly stating that he should not be admitted because he is pro-life.

Pro-life candidates can be labeled as “naive” or “rigid” in their thinking. They can be written off as “overly religious” or “intolerant” and not likely to play nice with others. This is enough to sink an applicant’s chances of admission. As a result, the school can claim that they did not deny the candidate admission because he or she was ostensibly pro-life, but rather because of some derogatory label that is foisted upon any pro-life candidate.

Ongoing Bias
The result of this screening is having its effect. A 2007 survey of medical students found that 40% of students identified themselves as liberals, while only 26% identified themselves as conservatives. Not surprisingly, this percentage of liberals in medical school is considerably higher than the numbers of self-identified liberals in the general U.S. population.

Only 30% of 18- to 24-year-olds identify themselves as liberal, while only 23% of 25- to 38-year-olds do. Clearly, a higher percentage of liberals are making their way into medical school, and it is hard to believe that the screening out of pro-life candidates, most of whom describe themselves as conservative, is not contributing to this discrepancy.

What makes matters even more troubling is that the bias against pro-lifers doesn’t stop in the admissions process, but continues throughout medical-school training and beyond.

Pro-life students are routinely denied OB-GYN residencies if they are unwilling to perform abortions. Those who do get residencies are often harassed or punished with poor letters of recommendation as a result of their pro-life stance. Likewise, family-practice residents have encountered similar situations in which they are marginalized for not assisting in abortions.

Even when they make it into practice, there is still discrimination against pro-life doctors. Pro-life doctors have been denied E.R. privileges for refusing to administer abortifacient drugs. They have been forced out of jobs for counseling patients to remain abstinent until marriage or for refusing to refer patients for abortions. In fact, the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists has stated that pro-life ob-gyns must “practice in proximity to individuals who do not share their views or ensure that referral processes are in place [for abortions].” If they fail to do so, the threat of board decertification looms.

Given the climate of discrimination, particularly in the OB-GYN field, it is essential that strong conscience-protection laws are put in place and that these laws are vigorously enforced. Unfortunately, the U.S. is moving in the wrong direction, as the Obama administration’s dilution of conscience regulations earlier this year demonstrates.

Among other problems, the watered-down regulations do not protect doctors or pharmacists who morally object to prescribing or dispensing contraceptives, and they do not protect doctors who refuse to refer patients who request abortions. While it seems to protect doctors who morally object to performing abortions, it is unclear if the regulations will be enforced vigorously by a Department of Justice that is run by appointees of a pro-abortion president.

The Need to Speak Out
This situation makes it imperative that the pro-life community speaks out to Congress and encourages the passing of strongly worded conscience-protection laws for health-care workers. It is also important that Catholic medical schools lead the way in this regard by 1) advocating for stronger conscience protections, 2) informing their medical students regarding the conscience protections that exist currently, and 3) facilitating the education of the wider medical profession in this regard.

If this underhanded discrimination of pro-life medical-school applicants and doctors continues to go unchecked and the conscience-protection laws continue to be assaulted, the numbers of committed pro-life doctors will certainly decline. The resultant lack of strong pro-life voices in the medical profession will affect both the type of medical care that is available to patients and the procedures (abortion, contraception, euthanasia) that are promoted as viable and necessary.

It is time … to assist our pro-life physicians and medical students in their effort to provide truly life-affirming care.
If we do not, the practice of medicine will be altered fundamentally in the coming years, and not for the better.


[8 Sept 11, Daniel Kuebler, Ph.D., http://www.ncregister.com/daily-news/the-case-against-pro-life-physicians-bias-begins-at-med-school-interview/#ixzz1XVzqA0qn
http://www.ncregister.com/daily-news/the-case-against-pro-life-physicians-bias-begins-at-med-school-interview/]
by DANIEL KUEBLER 09/08/2011,
Daniel Kuebler, Ph.D, is a professor of biology at Franciscan University of Steubenville, Ohio ]

 

 

 

National Life Chain Influences Public Debate for Conscience Rights / Trying to Stop Erosion of the Right of Conscience

This is a video (under 5 minutes) about a nursing student who stood for those principles she had learned as a child while witnessing for life with her family — http://liveaction.org/blog/med-students-no-longer-forced-to-assist-in-abortions/

She had the courage & spunk to contact a legal firm that works with health professionals when their Right of Conscience is attacked.
Within 26 hours of the formal request, Vanderbilt removed the requirement that forced resident nursing students to participate in abortion procedures.

"This Vanderbilt nursing student is a great example of what one principled person can accomplish and she cites Life Chain as important in the formation of her ProLife position," according to Mike Kofroth, Life Chain state director for Wisconsin.
 
"Since the start of Life Chain in Milwaukee, I have seen its most powerful influence has been on those who hold the signs and not the general public.  This influence is most critical on our children as they participate year after year.  Anne states how Life Chain influenced her and demonstrates how this influence can affect the public debate in ways beyond what we at first may realize."
 
Check this 4+-minute video of her story:
 http://liveaction.org/blog/med-students-no-longer-forced-to-assist-in-abortions/

Visit http://LifeChain.net  for more than 1800 locations set for October
[28 Aug 2011]

Trying to Stop Erosion of the Right of Conscience — Respect for Rights of Conscience Act of 2011 ("Fortenberry Bill", H.R. 1179 and S. 1467)
This information concerns your right of conscience. The Obama administration appears poised to adopt a radical advisory board recommendation: that the federal government must pay for or force others to pay for ethically controversial contraceptive drugs.

AAPLOG does not take a position on birth control methods per se, leaving that to the individual physician and his/her conscience. (AAPLOG takes a strong position against abortifacients.)

AAPLOG feels that the impending government action regarding ethically controversial contraceptive drugs is a serious violation of the physician's right to follow his/her conscience.

We urge you to consider the following editorial , and then write a brief comment to the HHS expressing your feelings. Submit your views to the U.S. Dept. of Health and Human Services (HHS), which is receiving comments from the public on the new contraception mandate rule until September 30, 2011 http://www.regulations.gov/#!submitComment;D=HHS-OS-2011-0023-0002

The following editorial by Jonathan Imbody of CMDA and Freedom2Care outlines the issue:

"Contraception mandate violates conscience rights -"The two sides of contraception – Published in The Washington Post, July 25, 2011 By Jonathan Imbody, CMA VP for Govt. Relations, July 25, 2011–Discarding consideration of both cost and conscientious objections, the Obama administration appears poised to adopt a radical advisory board recommendation: that the federal government must pay for or force others to pay for ethically controversial contraceptive drugs. Included in the indiscriminate mandate would be controversial drugs such as ella (ulipristal acetate) and the "morning-after pill" (levonorgestrel).

Food and Drug Administration labels note that these drugs "may inhibit implantation" of a living human embryo.

Since many physicians, patients, employers and even some insurers adhere to life-affirming ethical standards, they cannot in good conscience participate in prescribing, taking or paying for such drugs.

This mandate offers them no alternative.


That's obviously of scant concern to the administration, which has gutted the only federal regulation protecting conscientious medical professionals from job-ending discrimination. Nor does the administration consider consequential the additional cost to taxpayers and potentially business-killing burdens that this overbearing policy will bring.

Time and again, confronted with protests that the government cannot continue to willfully disregard cost and conscience, this president audaciously answers, "Yes, we can."
Poll: Americans oppose contraception mandate
(Excerpted from "39% Say Health Insurance Companies Should Be Required to Cover Contraceptives," Rasmussen Reports, August 04, 2011)

The Obama administration on Monday announced a new set of standards that require health insurance companies to cover all government-approved contraceptives for women, without co-payments or other fees for the patient. A plurality of Americans nationwide opposes this requirement and would like to have the option of picking their health plans based on cost and what coverage they need.


The latest Rasmussen Reports national telephone survey of American Adults shows that 39% believe health insurance companies should be required to cover all government approved contraceptives for women, but 46% don't think they should be. Another 15% are undecided.

Jonathan Imbody, CMA VP for Govt. Relations: "The good news is that Americans oppose the contraception mandate; the bad news is that the administration will mandate it anyway. This issue crystalizes the coercive government control that so many Americans object to about the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act ('Obamacare').

"A fig-leaf 'conscience exemption' disqualifies even CMDA and other pro-life organizations from conscientious exemption, incredibly because we serve individuals who don't share our religious tenets.

The ridiculously narrow conscience exemption only applies to a 'religious employer,' defined as "one that (1) has the inculcation of religious values as its purpose; (2) primarily employs persons who share its religious tenets; (3) primarily serves persons who share its religious tenets; and (4) is a non-profit organization under section 6033(a)(1) and section 6033(a)(3)(A)(i) or (iii) of the [Internal Revenue] Code.

"With the administration relentlessly pursuing policies that violate conscience rights (such as gutting the only federal regulation protecting healthcare professionals' conscience rights), we must pass legislation to block the coercion. Urge your lawmakers to cosponsor the CMA-backed Respect for Rights of Conscience Act (The Fortenberry Bill)(H.R. 1179 and S. 1467)."

More about the Fortenberry Bill this in the next letter…
[Aug 27, 2011]

 

29 August 2011
On 8-27, we sent you an email with a July 28 editorial comment about the impending Obamacare Contraception Mandate. Whatever your feelings on the contraceptive issues, this is a government program mandating that all insurance programs must provide free contraceptive coverage (and, by extension, physicians participating in these programs would be expected to prescribe the mandated medications.)

Some of these meds are very controversial with regard to abortifacient activity. Thus it conflicts
with the conscience convictions of many physicians (and other taxpayers) to have to pay for such medications, and, for prolife doctors to have to prescribe meds they conclude have abortifacient action.

For the AAPLOG Position Paper on this, go to: http://www.aaplog.org/american-issues-2/contraceptive-mandate/  

On Aug 1, the HHS announced that this mandate would be implemented for all insurance programs, effective Aug 1, 2012 (For Aug 1 News Release, which is very informative, go to http://www.hhs.gov/news/press/2011pres/08/20110801b.html

As we mentioned on 8-27, AAPLOG strongly objects to this government mandated override of physicians consciences, (as well asnto the taxpayer funding of potentially abortifacient meds.)

There is a comment period with the HHS until Sept 30. We strongly encourage you to submit your comments at http://www.regulations.gov/#!submitComment;D=HHS-OS-2011-0023-0002

(I just submitted my comments. It took 5 minutes.)
If we are not going to speak for our conscience rights, who will? NO ONE.

You will find the AAPLOG position statement in this issue as the lead item on our web site home page under "American Issues."

What else can you do to speak up for your own conscience rights? Ask your congressmen, both in HR and Senate, "Please co-sponsor the Respect for Rights of Conscience Act (The Fortenberry Bill)(H.R. 1179 and S. 1467)." This is very simple, as follows:

The easiest way to contact your legislator is this:
For Representatives, Go to https://writerep.house.gov/writerep/welcome.shtml
Follow the prompts. If you don't know the last 4 numbers on your 10 digit zip code, look on your driver's license.
Paste (or write) your message. Submit. Done!

For Senators, call (202) 224-3121
Or go to http://www.senate.gov/general/contact_information/senators_cfm.cfm
Follow prompts, paste letter & submit. Done!

FYI: the specifics of the Fortenberry Bill are below:
Regarding the "Fortenberry Bill", (H.R. 1179 and S. 1467) Respect for Rights of Conscience Act

The following summary was written by the Congressional Research Service, a well-respected nonpartisan arm of the Library of Congress. GovTrack did not write and has no control over these summaries.

8/2/2011–Introduced.

Respect for Rights of Conscience Act of 2011 ("Fortenberry Bill", H.R. 1179 and S. 1467):

Amends the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (PPACA) to permit a health plan to decline coverage of specific items and services that are contrary to the religious beliefs of the sponsor, issuer, or other entity offering the plan or the purchaser or beneficiary (in the case of individual coverage) without penalty.

Declares that such plans are still considered to: (1) be providing the essential health benefits package or preventive health services, (2) be a qualified health plan, and (3) have fulfilled other requirements under PPACA.

Declares that nothing in PPACA shall be construed to authorize a health plan to require a provider to provide, participate in, or refer for a specific item or service contrary to the provider's religious beliefs or moral convictions.

Prohibits a health plan from being considered to have failed to provide timely or other access to items or services or to fulfill any other requirement under PPACA because it has respected the rights of conscience of such a provider.

Prohibits an American Health Benefit Exchange (a state health insurance exchange) or other official or entity acting in a governmental capacity in the course of implementing PPACA from discriminating against a health plan, plan sponsor, health care provider, or other person because of an unwillingness to provide coverage of, participate in, or refer for, specific items or services.

Creates a private cause of action for the protection of individual rights created under this Act. Authorizes any person or entity to assert a violation of this Act as a claim or defense in a judicial proceeding.

Designates the Office for Civil Rights of the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) to receive and investigate complaints of discrimination based on this Act. Makes this Act effective as if it were included in PPACA.