Harmful Attack on Freedom of Conscience; Congress Should Defend Medical Staff Forced to Perform Abortions

The Washington Times (Washington, DC), March 14, 2011 | Go to article overview

Harmful Attack on Freedom of Conscience; Congress Should Defend Medical Staff Forced to Perform Abortions


Byline: Chris Gacek, SPECIAL TO THE WASHINGTON TIMES

The Obama administration recently gutted conscience regulations for medical professionals. Issued by the Bush admin- istration, they were intended to ensure, in part, that health workers would not have to help perform abortions if they objected to doing so. Unfortunately, even with the Bush rules in place, such moral objections were ignored.

Now, it probably will be easier for the federal government to ignore complaints filed by those who have been compelled to violate their moral principles and assist in the performance of abortions.

Consider, for example, the 2004 case of operating room nurse Catherina Cenzon-DeCarlo. Ms. DeCarlo signed papers informing her employer, Mount Sinai Hospital in New York City, that she was not willing to help perform abortions. Yet, on May 24, 2009, the hospital compelled Ms. DeCarlo to participate in the abortion of a 22-week-old unborn baby, which was not prompted by any medical emergency.

Ms. DeCarlo sued Mount Sinai, understandably claiming that being compelled to assist in the abortion caused her severe emotional distress. In part, she relied on the Church Amendments, federal laws enacted in the 1970s that were designed to protect conscience rights. Ms. DeCarlo's attorneys argued that she was protected by one of these provisions, 42 U.S.C. Section 300a-7(c), which prohibits organizations receiving federal money under certain statutes from discriminating against health care practitioners who are unwilling to perform abortions or sterilizations.

In December 2010, the 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals held that this Church provision did not contain a right for her to use the federal courts to redress her grievance against Mount Sinai. In other words, only the federal government itself could enforce the statute. Ms. DeCarlo is not appealing that decision.

Happily, the story does not end there. Our new pro-life House of Representatives is interested in the case and, more generally, in the conscience rights of pro-life health care providers. It is using its oversight powers to examine why Ms. DeCarlo's rights were trampled by Mount Sinai, with seemingly no response to date from the federal government. …

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