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Trying to Make Sense of the Abortion Conscious Clause


Let’s all try and understand what’s going on here with this brewing controversy over the abortion conscious clause. The Obama administration is looking at rescinding it. Read from Lifenews.com to start:

The Provider Refusal Rule was proposed by the Bush White House in August and enacted on January 20, the day President Barack Obama took office.

It expanded on a 30-year-old law establishing a "conscience clause" for "health-care professionals who don't want to perform abortions."

Under the rule, workers in health-care settings -- from doctors to janitors -- can refuse to provide services, information or advice to patients on subjects such as contraception, family planning, blood transfusions and even vaccine counseling if they are morally against it.

Dan Nejfelt, a Senior Communications Associate in the moderate Evangelical group called Faith in Public Life group sent The Brody File the following analysis:

“It’s important to remember that regardless of what becomes of the conscience clause regulations under review, doctors will NOT be required to perform abortions against their will. There’s a thirty-year history of legislation ensuring this, and even completely overturning the regulations in question can’t change it. What the conscience clause is far more likely to affect is access to prescription birth control, which can drastically affect the number and rate of unplanned pregnancies and abortions.  In keeping with the President’s repeated statements about the need to reduce abortion, ensuring access to contraception is a logical goal. I don’t know what this review process is going to lead to, but it seems consistent with a commitment to reducing abortion.”

Tony Perkins, President of the conservative Family Research Council looks at it differently. Here is what he sent me:

"Should an individual have to choose between a health care profession and their moral convictions about human life?  That is exactly what the Conscious Regulations are about.  Where is the choice in this "pro-choice” administration?"

He also says this:

"President's Obama's intention to change the language of these protections would result in the government becoming the conscience and not the individual. It is a person's right to exercise their moral judgment, not the government's to decide it for them."

"Protecting the right of all health-care providers to make professional judgments based on moral convictions and ethical standard s is foundational to federal law and is necessary to ensure that access to health care is not diminished, which will occur if health-care workers are forced out of their jobs because of their ethical stances.”

So it seems to me that this isn't so much about forcing medical professionals to perform abortions though some will argue that tightening the rule could lead to that. Instead this seems to be about issues like access to contraception and increased government control over someone's moral objections. Also, just how broad should the rule be?

On a separate but related note, if President Obama wants to be a President for ALL people and wants to bring Evangelicals on board to some degree, he is going to somehow have to differentiate himself when it comes to abortion policy. Deciding not to reinstate the Mexico City Policy on the Roe v Wade anniversary was scene by the Obama administration as an olive branch and a goodwill gesture. But Evangelicals didn't see it that way for the most part. They saw it as window dressing.

Younger Evangelicals care just as deeply about the abortion issue. If the President continues to support every nook and cranny of the pro-choice lobbyist agenda checklist then he does himself no favors with Evangelicals. Understandably he is pro-choice and his moves make sense from that standpoint but if he really wants to be a different, more moderate President he’ll need to deviate somewhat from the pro-choice policy playbook. If he stood up to Planned Parenthood and NARAL on some issues then that would go along way with Evangelicals. Pro-lifers are not holding their breath.

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Print     Email to a Friend    posted on Saturday, February 28, 2009 5:00 AM



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