Bill raises questions about delicate balance of doctor and patient rights near life’s end

CN Cronkite News

Arizona PBS

Saundra Wilson

PHOENIX – “Please don’t ask me to do that,” Dr. Paul Liu, a pediatric critical-care physician, said to grieving parents who had asked him to quietly end their child’s life.

Liu said he was frank with the parents, who wanted to put a stop to their sons’s suffering from a terminal illness. He advised them not to pursue an early death for their child because it’s not something they would want on their conscience.

“In their pain and suffering they wanted to end it much more quickly than natural courses would take,” said Liu, who recalled the story as he spoke in favor of Senate Bill 1439 at a Senate health and human services committee meeting this week. . . . [Full Text]

Conscience Protection Act passes U.S. House of Representatives

By a vote of 245 to 182 the U.S. House of Representatives has passed the Conscience Protection Act, a bill designed to prevent government discrimination against and  prevent the suppression of the freedom of conscience and religion of individuals or groups unwilling to provide or facilitate abortion for reasons of conscience or religion.  The bill adds a right of action by victims, the lack of which has prevented victims from defending their freedom in court. President Barack Obama is expected to veto the legislation. [CNS News]

The Conscience Protection Act – Policy Lecture with Dr. John Fleming (R-La.)

News Release

Family Research Council

Despite longstanding protections in federal law to keep pro-life doctors, nurses, churches, and religious organizations from being forced to pay for or perform abortions, President Obama’s HHS has repeatedly ignored and refused to investigate clear violations of the law. In 2014, California, and recently New York, have imposed sweeping abortion mandates requiring all employers, including churches, to pay for abortions on-demand in their health insurance plans regardless of any moral and religious objections. The Conscience Protection Act (H.R. 4828) (CPA), introduced by Dr. Fleming (R-La.), would protect pro-life healthcare providers and organizations from just this sort of government discrimination. CPA codifies long-standing federal conscience laws, and provides a critical private right of action so that healthcare providers facing discrimination for refusing to participate in abortion can sue in federal court to protect their conscience rights. Nobody should have to choose between practicing medicine and practicing their religion. Join Family Research Council and Dr. John Fleming as he speaks on this crucial and commonsense measure.

Dr. John Fleming (R-La.), the author of the Conscience Protection Act of 2016 (H.R. 4828), is both a Navy veteran and medical doctor. He has represented Louisiana’s 4th Congressional district since 2009, and is currently a candidate to be the GOP nominee for Louisiana’s open Senate seat this November.

In the House, Dr. Fleming has worked in Congress for sensible health care reforms, authoring legislation urging all Members of Congress to participate in the same health care system that they create for the American people. Dr. Fleming serves on two House Committees: Armed Services and Natural Resources where he is Chairman of the Subcommittee on Water, Power and Oceans. He serves as Co-Chairman of the GOP Doctor’s Caucus, a group that includes 14 physicians who work to develop patient-centered health care reforms.

Dr. Fleming has personally witnessed the miracle of life not only as a father of four children with his wife of 37 years, Cindy, and a grandfather of three, but also as a doctor who has delivered hundreds of babies. In 2007, he was even named the Louisiana Family Doctor of the Year. During his time in Congress, Dr. Fleming has championed conscience protections for medical personnel who choose not to participate in abortion practices.

Due to Congressional scheduling, please be advised that the start time of this lecture event is subject to change. If the live webcast does not begin at noon, stay tuned.

Light refreshments will be served.

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Project proposes amendment to Canadian euthanasia/assisted suicide bill to stop coercion, intimidation

Amendment to Bill C-14 to prevent coerced participation in inflicting death

News Release
For immediate release

Protection of Conscience Project

The Protection of Conscience Project has proposed an amendment to Bill C-14 to prevent coercion, intimidation or other forms of pressure intended to force citizens to become parties to homicide or suicide.  The amendment is set out in a submission to the Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights.

Bill C-14 is the bill proposed by Canada’s Liberal government to implement the 2015 decision of the Supreme Court of Canada in Carter v. Canada (Attorney General. It will legalize assisted suicide and euthanasia administered by medical an nurse practitioners.  However, the Bill as introduced does nothing to prevent intimidation and coercion of objecting health care workers to force them to participate in or facilitate the procedures by referral or similar means.

The Project’s proposed amendment is an addition that does not otherwise change the text of  Bill C-14. Nor does it touch the eligibility criteria proposed by Carter, nor the criteria or procedural safeguards recommended by the Special Joint Committee or Provincial-Territorial Expert Advisory Group.  It simply establishes that, as a matter of law and Canadian public policy, no one can be compelled to become a party to homicide or suicide, or punished or disadvantaged for refusing to do so.

The Protection of Conscience Project does not take a position on the acceptability of euthanasia or physician assisted suicide or the merits of legalization of the procedures. The Project’s concern is to ensure that health care workers who object to providing or participating in homicide and suicide for reasons of conscience or religion are not compelled to do so or punished or disadvantaged for refusal.

“Coercion, intimidation or other forms of pressure intended to force citizens to become parties to homicide or suicide is both an egregious violation of fundamental freedoms and a serious threat to society that justifies the use of criminal law,” states the submission.

“Other countries have demonstrated that it is possible to provide euthanasia and physician assisted suicide without suppressing fundamental freedoms.  None of them require ‘effective referral,’ physician-initiated ‘direct transfer’ or otherwise conscript objecting physicians into euthanasia/assisted suicide service.”

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Contact:
Sean Murphy, Administrator
Protection of Conscience Project
Email: protection@consciencelaws.org

Cardinal Dolan and Archbishop Lori to Congress: Support the Conscience Protection Act

News Release

US Conference of Catholic Bishops

WASHINGTON—Cardinal Timothy M. Dolan and – as chairmen of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ Committee on Pro-Life Activities and Ad Hoc Committee for Religious Liberty, respectively – wrote to the U.S. House of Representatives, March 31, urging support for the Conscience Protection Act of 2016 (HR 4828).

The Conscience Protection Act, they wrote, is “essential legislation protecting the fundamental rights of health care providers…to ensure that those providing much-needed health care and health coverage can continue to do so without being forced by government to help destroy innocent unborn children.”

HR 4828 has a “modest scope,” they noted. “While existing federal laws already protect conscientious objection to abortion in theory, this protection has not proved effective in practice… The Conscience Protection Act will address the deficiencies that block effective enforcement of existing laws, most notably by establishing a private right of action allowing victims of discrimination to defend their own rights in court.”

Cardinal Dolan and Archbishop Lori recalled the Hippocratic oath’s rejection of abortion in the profession of medicine, indicating that the Act will benefit not only Catholic medical professionals but “the great majority of ob/gyns [who] remain unwilling to perform abortions.”

Finally, they explained that conscience protection facilitates access to life-affirming health care: “When government…mandates involvement in abortion as a condition for being allowed to provide life-affirming health care services, it not only undermines the widely acknowledged civil rights of health care providers but also limits access to good health care for American women and men.”

The full text of their letter is posted at:
www.usccb.org/issues-and-action/religious-liberty/conscience-protection/upload/Conscience-Protection-Act-Dolan-Lori-Ltr-to-Congress-03-31-16.pdf

For more on the bishops’ promotion of conscience rights, including a recent video about a nurse who was coerced to take part in a late-term abortion, visit:
www.usccb.org/issues-and-action/religious-liberty/conscience-protection.

MEDIA CONTACT
Don Clemmer
O: 202-541-3206

Fleming Introduces Bill To Protect Pro-Life Health Care Providers

News Release

Congressman John Fleming

WASHINGTON, D.C. –Congressman John Fleming, M.D. released the following statement after introducing H.R. 4828, the Conscience Protection Act, which affords doctors, nurses, hospitals, and all health care providers the ability to choose not to provide abortions as part of their health care practice.

“As a family practice physician for over 30 years, I know for a fact that doctors and nurses are dedicated medical professionals uniquely qualified to assess the health and wellness needs of their patients. There is no room in the clinic for government discrimination, for Big Brother to force a health care provider to participate, in any way, in an abortion. My legislation offers common sense conscience protections for the front line of the medical profession. From clinician to hospital, from an HMO to insurance coverage, and from a student health plan to a physician in training, H.R. 4828 protects against forced participation in abortions and provides recourse for victims facing discrimination.”

Rep. Hartzler (R-MO), an original co-sponsor of  H.R. 4828 added, “Forcing a health care provider, church, private employer, or charity to violate their conscience is simply wrong. Caring professionals such as nurses and doctors should not be forced to perform abortions; nor should states, like California, force individuals to buy or provide insurance policies that pay for abortions. Our bill reinforces conscience protections already provided and offers a legal right of action to those who have been harmed by discriminatory or unlawful mandates. I am proud to co-sponsor this measure to stand up for those courageously standing by their convictions, to protect life, and to preserve the religious freedoms afforded to all of us.”

Background: There is an urgent need to pass the Conscience Protection Act. Longstanding, bipartisan, annual federal appropriations language, known as the Hyde/Weldon amendment, offers limited protections against discrimination for health care providers which do not provide, pay for, provide coverage of, or refer for abortions. Despite the Hyde/Weldon amendment, nurses have been forced to participate in gruesome dismemberment abortions and/or instructed that performing an abortion is mandatory for training or employment purposes. Additionally, beginning in August 2014 the California Department for Managed Health Care (DMHC) issued a directive requiring that all insurance plans under the State’s authority immediately cover abortions. This means that California churches, religious charities, employers and individuals are forced to purchase abortion coverage via their health plans. In a second brazen move, the Golden State is now requiring that pregnancy care centers post signs instructing clients where they can obtain an abortion. Despite the fact that California’s actions violate the Hyde/Weldon pro-life policy, the current Administration has failed to resolve the matter. The Conscience Protection Act would protect pro-life health care providers from forced complicity in an abortion and would also provide a private right of action, enabling victims of governmental discrimination to seek redress in court.

Contact: Sarah Althouse (202-225-2777)

Conscience freedom in healthcare bill urged

The Point

Reproduced with permission

Christian Medical and Dental Association

Excerpted from “Stand with Cathy for conscience rights,” USCCB video, November 17, 2015 – The freedom of conscience is at the heart of who we are as Americans. And federal law has long protected that freedom. But now conscience rights are under attack. And healthcare providers, whose rights have been violated, are speaking up.

Catherina Cenzon-DeCarlo, RN: “On May 24, 2009, the hospital where I work coerced me to assist in a 22-week abortion. My duties as a nurse included being present for the bloody dismemberment and accounting for body parts afterwards.”

Cathy’s employer threatened her job and nursing license if she did not participate in a late-term abortion against her deeply held beliefs.

If Congress does not act, doctors and nurses across the country will be forced to violate their conscience or leave healthcare altogether.

CMDA Senior Vice President and OB/Gyn Gene Rudd, MD: “Stories like that of Ms. Cenzon-DeCarlo may seem too remote, rare and unlikely to affect your world. Think again. CMDA frequently hears similar complaints from our members. In one member survey, four in 10 members reported being pressured to act against their conscience. And one in four suffered consequences for standing their ground.

“So what should we do? Let me suggest two types of actions. First, as citizens, seek to defend our First Amendment rights. CMDA is doing that organizationally on your behalf, but your direct voice to those who represent us in Washington and state capitals is critical.

“Secondly, as followers of Christ, we should stand for what is right. When asked to violate the principles of Scripture and your Spirit-guided conscience, refuse. And we must defend our neighbors who are doing the same.

“This quote from Martin Niemöller, a German pastor during World War II, is a reminder of what is at stake if we ignore the problem:

‘First they came for the Socialists, and I did not speak out—Because I was not a Socialist. Then they came for the Trade Unionists, and I did not speak out— Because I was not a Trade Unionist. Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out— Because I was not a Jew. Then they came for me—and there was no one left to speak for me.’”

Action

  1. Share your own story of discrimination on CMA’s www.Freedom2Care.org website. Click here to share your views and experience and click here to read what others are saying.
  2. Tell your lawmakers to prevent discrimination in healthcare and support the Abortion Non-Discrimination Act. [Note: it may be possible to include this legislation in an upcoming omnibus appropriations bill.]

Resources Abortion- and conscience-related legislation: CMDA’s Freedom2Care legislative action site CMDA’s Healthcare Right of Conscience Ethics Statement

Click here to comment

 

Stand with Cathy for Conscience Rights

US Conference of Catholic Bishops

Cathy Cenzon-DeCarlo, RN, was forced by her employer to participate in a late-term abortion against her deeply-held pro-life beliefs – a major violation of her conscience rights! Urge Congress to support the Abortion Non-Discrimination Act today! Go to: www.usccb.org/conscience

Illinois controversy about legislative overreach

 Catholic bishops withdraw opposition, others remain opposed

Confrontation centres on complicity

Sean Murphy*

 Introduction

Among American states, Illinois has the most comprehensive protection of conscience legislation, the Health Care Right of Conscience Act (HCRCA). In 2009 an attempt was made to nullify the Act with respect to abortion, contraception and related procedures by introducing HB 2354 (Reproductive Health and Access Act), but the bill died in committee two years later.1 Now it appears that the HRCA may be changed by Senate Bill 1564. Critics say the bill tramples upon physician freedom of conscience,2 while the bill’s supporters, like the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), claim that the bill is “about making sure no one is withholding information from the patient.”3

SB 1564 was actually drafted by the ACLU,3 but it was introduced by Illinois Senator Daniel Biss. He said that the amendments were partly in response to the case of a woman who was miscarrying over several weeks, but who was refused “diagnosis or options” in the hospital where she had sought treatment.4  Senator Bliss was apparently referring to the story of Mindy Swank, who testified before a Senate legislative panel about her experience.  The Illinois Times reported that she suffered “a dangerous, weeks-long miscarriage” because of the refusal of Catholic hospitals to provide abortions.5

Unfortunately, the Illinois Senate Judiciary Committee does not record or transcribe its hearings, and conflicting news reports make it difficult to determine exactly what happened at some critical points in her story.  Moreover, it appears that the Committee did not hear from the hospitals and physicians who were involved with Ms. Swank, so we are left with a one-sided account of what took place.6

Nonetheless, as a first step in considering the particulars of the bill and the controversy it has engendered, it is appropriate to review the evidence offered to support it.  We will begin with Mindy Swank’s testimony, even if some details are lacking, and then examine the experience of Angela Valavanis, a second case put forward by the ACLU to justify SB 1564.7  [Full Text]

In Illinois, Bishops and Pro-Life Groups Differ on ACLU Conscience Bill

National Catholic Register

Peter Jesserer Smith

Both parties don’t like the pro-abortion-rights organization’s bill, but the Illinois Catholic Conference is standing neutral while local pro-life groups campaign against it in the state legislature.

SPRINGFIELD, Ill. — A battle is under way over conscience rights and health care in the Illinois Legislature that has pro-life groups on one side, the American Civil Liberties Union and Planned Parenthood on the other, and the Illinois Catholic Conference standing neutral on the sidelines.

The ACLU of Illinois has proposed a change to Illinois’ broad legal protections for the conscience rights of health-care workers with S.B. 1564, which has already passed the state senate, but whose defeat the pro-life groups are urging in the state house.

If health-care facilities or personnel decline to provide services for reasons of conscience — such as abortions or sterilizations — the bill’s protocols would require them either to make referrals for such services or to provide information about other places where they are likely to be available. [Full Text]