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Law Review: Your Conscience, Your Right: A History of Efforts to Violate Pro-Life Medical Conscience, and the Laws That Stand in the Way

    M. Casey Mattox and Matthew S. Bowman, Your Conscience, Your Right: A History of Efforts to Violate Pro-Life Medical Conscience, and the Laws That Stand in the Way, The Linacre Quarterly 77(2) (May 2010): 187–197.

    Attacks on the conscience rights of health-care professionals are increasing. This stems from the seven stages of liberal legal activism which begins with the assertion that a specific (immoral) activity should not be illegal and ends with the condemnation as criminals of those who disagree with the immoral activity. The history of legal activism in the United States with regard to abortion is traced, including attempts to force Catholic hospitals to perform abortions and sterilizations. These include challenges on the national and state levels with conscience-protection legislation enacted both in Congress and in state legislatures. However, these laws provide no
    explicit means by which a medical professional or institution may seek redress for a violation of their conscience. This has led to recent failures of conscience protection, such as when Catholic Charities in New York was forced to provide insurance coverage for contraceptives and a Catholic nurse was forced to assist in a twentytwo-
    week-old dismemberment abortion. The conscience protection regulations issued near the end of President Bush’s second term would be helpful in ensuring greater education about and adherence to the laws and respect for conscience rights, but the Obama Administration has proposed rescinding the Bush Administration
    regulations. Catholic Medical Association members must stand and defend their conscience rights in this time or risk the loss of those rights in the near future. The Alliance Defense Fund and its allies are ready to assist medical students, professionals, and institutions who are willing to stand in this gap and refuse to sacrifice their
    consciences to the anti-choice agenda being promoted by those who call themselves “pro-choice.”

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    Adapted from a presentation delivered by M. Casey Mattox at the first annual symposium for Catholic health-care professionals, “Conscience and Ethical Dilemmas
    in Catholic Healthcare,” hosted by the Archdiocese of Baltimore Respect Life Office and Baltimore Guild of the Catholic Medical Association, Baltimore, MD, May 9, 2009. This symposium predated the deliberations on health-care reform in Congress. As this article went to press Congress passed and President Obama signed the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act into law. The impact of that bill on the longstanding conscience protections discussed here remains to be seen.


  • Posted: 07/01/2010
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