Legislation / Court Cases

Right of Conscience From Abortion – Federal Legislation Compared to UK (as of 5/07)

In the USA, we still have "conscience protection" so that we are NOT REQUIRED to refer for abortion.

This is found in the Weldon Amendment, passed yearly by the federal legislature along with government medical funding legislation.

You may remember that the ACOG president 2 years ago wrote to senators, "on behalf of" all 45,000 of ACOG fellows (of course), asking that the Weldon amendment be scrapped. You may also remember that AAPLOG immediately wrote every ACOG officer on a national, district, and state level to expose this move and to strongly voice our objection to it. (well, almost every officer—we could not obtain names of a few.)

No more came of the attempt at that time, but there is no question that ACOG will be back, in some way, to oppose the Weldon Amendment.

In the UK, the conscience issue is just as alive as here, but so much more of the medical care is government funded that a government edict requiring abortion referral would impact the conscience convictions of a vast number of their physicians. And the pressure is coming. Consider excerpts from this article from the May 4 Cambridge Evening News.

When you actually look at the original article it is interesting to note how strong and loud are the voices that doctors must be made to refer for abortion, or as one said, be "investigated for malpractice!"

 

THE NEWS ARTICLE EXCERPTS
"LEADING Cambridge GPs are supporting a doctor's right to refuse to provide abortions.
GPs were responding to a survey in the doctors' magazine Pulse which showed growing opposition to abortion within the profession.

"One in five said it should be banned completely. And a quarter refuse to send women for termination because of deep moral objections.

"Dr Mike Knapton, a GP at Nuffield Road Medical Centre, told the News: 'I think it is absolutely right doctors who have moral or religious objections to this treatment should have the right not to provide this service. It is only right and proper GPs make it known patients can see another doctor for assessment.

"'I believe that the current legal position of the doctor's right to refuse referral on conscientious grounds is therefore correct, when balanced with the General Medical Council's good medical practice guidelines, which respect the patient's choice as these state that the doctor has a duty of care to pass a patient on for a second opinion.'

[OUR NOTE: IN A SOCIALIZED SYSTEM IT MAY BE CALLED "PASSING THEM ALONG FOR A SECOND OPINION." IN PLAIN AMERICAN LANGUAGE, IT IS CALLED "REFERRAL FOR ABORTION." YOU ARE CURRENTLY PROTECTED FROM THIS OBLIGATION.]

"Dr Colin Farrant, senior partner at Petersfield Medical Practice, said: 'It is very difficult to make people do what they do not want to do. I think doctors have got to have some right for conscientious objection in this regard. But something has to be done to protect patient care, therefore doctors have got to provide an alternative route for patients if they are not prepared to provide that service.'

"Last month the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists warned of a potential crisis in NHS abortions, saying the increase in medical 'conscientious objectors' was forcing women to go private.

"Marie Stopes International, which carries out a third of abortions in the UK, said: 'It is appalling that such a large percentage of doctors are refusing to sign abortion referral forms. It lends fuel to the argument that we should take doctors out of the picture.
Doctors who refuse to sign the forms are committing an abuse of power. We believe they should send women to another doctor who will sign. If not they should be investigated for malpractice.'" [First appeared in the Cambridge Evening News, 04 May 2007; AAPLOG, 16May07]

 

Right of Conscience – Legislation Victory 

The US Congress agreed to key legislation — the Hyde/Weldon Conscience Protection Amendment — that protects private healthcare providers (incl. hospitals, doctors, clinics & insurers) from being forced to provide abortions or refer women to others for abortions. It bars federal, state and local agencies from withholding taxpayer money from health care providers who refuse to provide or pay for abortions or refuse to offer abortion counseling or referrals.

In the same bill, Congress also banned the patenting of human life. This greatly limits the ability of biotech companies to kill/exploit human life for economic gain.

President Bush's policy not to fund international organizations that support abortion was also upheld, and significant increases in funding for abstinence programs were secured. All in all, it was a good day for life. Cathy Ruse noted, "The opposition of abortion activists to this Amendment is telling . . . . Here’s more evidence that 'pro-choice’ really does mean 'pro-abortion.’"

Hyde/Weldon Conscience Protection Amendment
Background: A campaign has been underway to force hospitals and other health care institutions to perform or promote abortion.

The Abortion Non-Discrimination Act (ANDA) would have clarified and strengthened conscience protection language found in current federal law (42 U.S.C. 238n). It would expand the definition of the term “health care entity” and extends protection to entities refusing to provide coverage of, or pay for, abortion. In 2002, ANDA passed the House but languished in the Senate.

In 2004, a comparable measure, the Hyde/Weldon Conscience Protection Amendment, was passed by the House as part of the Fiscal Year 2005 Labor/Health and Human Services Appropriations Bill. The amendment was incorporated into the conference report on the Fiscal Year 2005 Omnibus Appropriations Bill (H.R. 4818), which was signed into law on December 8, 2004 (Public Law 108-447).

Judicial: On December 13, 2004, the Nati

onal Family Planning and Reproductive Health Association (NFPRHA) filed a lawsuit in U.S. District Court in Washington, D.C., claiming that the Hyde/Weldon Conscience Protection Amendment was unconstitutional. On December 20, 2004, Judge Henry Kennedy denied a motion for a temporary restraining order. On January 5, 2005, a hearing was held to consider NFPRHA’s request for a preliminary injunction, but no decision has yet been rendered.
On January 25, 2005, California Attorney General Bill Lockyer filed a lawsuit in U.S. District Court, Northern District of California, also challenging the constitutionality of the Hyde/Weldon amendment.     On the floor of the House the same day, Rep. Dave Weldon (R-FL) commented on the amendment and this lawsuit: frwebgate.access.gpo.gov/cgi-bin/getpage.cgi?position= all&page=H176&dbname=2005_record.

Senate: During the course of the November 20, 2004 debate in the Senate, Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-CA) stated that in the new Congress – 2005 – she would introduce legislation to repeal the conscience provision. She secured agreement from the Majority and Minority Leaders that by April 30, 2005, the Senate would consider her bill, with at least four hours of debate and an up-or-down vote with no amendments. However, Boxer dropped this opportunity.

[FRC, 22Nov04, http://www.frc.org/index.cfm?i=PG03G34&f=WU04K17&t=e; NCHLA, 24Nov04]