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It can no longer be taken for granted. From our November issue.
“Conscience is the most sacred of all property.”
Nurse Catherina Cenzon-DeCarlo winced as the doctor inserted forceps into his patient’s dilated cervix and pushed them deep into her uterus. Then she stood shocked as he carefully plucked, piece by piece, parts of the patient’s unborn child, pulling them back through the cervix and vagina, and ultimately placed them in a specimen cup. DeCarlo then was required to pour saline into the cup and deliver the bloody body parts to the specimen room.
On May 24, DeCarlo, a nurse at Mount Sinai Hospital in New York City, was forced to participate in the killing of a 22-week-old unborn child by dismemberment. As she began her shift that morning, a superior informed her that she needed to assist in the late second-term abortion. DeCarlo protested that as a practicing Catholic, she had strongly held religious beliefs against killing unborn children.
Though she had repeatedly and in writing made her belief known to hospital administrators since she was hired five years earlier, DeCarlo was told on that day that if she did not participate, she would be charged with “insubordination and patient abandonment.” That meant she might lose her job or her nursing license or both. Despite repeated tearful pleas, DeCarlo was refused. The next day, DeCarlo called the Alliance Defense Fund, which has filed a federal lawsuit on her behalf. DeCarlo stated later:
I couldn’t believe that this could happen in the United States, where freedom is held sacred. I still remember the baby’s mangled body with twisted and torn arms, fingers, legs and feet. It felt like a horror film unfolding. I kept imagining the pain this baby must have gone through while being torn apart with the forceps. It was devastating.
Pro-life advocates have had a year to come to terms with the most strident abortion advocate ever to ascend to the U.S. presidency. Having relied on either a pro-life president or pro-life congressional majority for 26 of the last 29 years, they confront an opposition emboldened as never before.
Nowhere is the scope of the abortion movement’s ambition more evident than in its aggressive attacks on the rights of health care providers not to participate in life-destroying procedures. Through their statements and actions, Barack Obama and his abortion industry allies are pushing their goal to make experiences like DeCarlo’s much more common.
THE PRIMACY OF CONSCIENCE is well established in American law. In 1973, after the U.S. Supreme Court’s Roe v. Wade decision legalizing abortion nationwide, Congress passed the Church Amendment, which exempts private entities that receive public funds from having to provide abortions or sterilizations, and protects health care workers from being forced to assist in abortions and other practices if they work for fund recipients.
Subsequent laws have reinforced federal conscience rights and extended them to prohibit discrimination at all levels of government for refusing to participate in or train for abortion. According to the Guttmacher Institute, a nonprofit research organization affiliated with Planned Parenthood, 46 states also allow some health care providers to refuse involvement in abortion.
Despite the vast body of laws protecting conscience rights, there have been numerous recent attempts to weaken them through legislation, the courts, and licensing boards. In 1995, the Accreditation Council for Graduate Medical Education passed a regulation to mandate abortion training for medical school accreditation, and only federal law prevented its enforcement.
In 1997, the Alaska Supreme Court ordered a private, non-sectarian, pro-life hospital to begin performing abortions. And over the past decade, New York, Massachusetts, and California have considered laws to force private hospitals to provide abortion and other services.
Perhaps the most consequential blow to conscience rights came in the form of a simple statement. In November 2007, the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG) declared that health care providers may not exercise their right of conscience if it might “constitute an imposition of religious or moral beliefs on patients.”
Shortly thereafter, the American Board of Obstetrics and Gynecology (ABOG) issued a policy stating that board certification can be revoked “if there is a violation of ABOG or ACOG rules and or ethics principles or felony convictions.”
According to Donna Harrison, MD, president of the American Association of Pro-Life Obstetricians and Gynecologists, the ACOG-ABOG policy would drive all pro-life ob/gyns out of practice. “In order to practice in hospitals you have to have board certification,” she said in an interview. “Obstetricians and gynecologists have to practice in hospitals because they are procedure-surgery based. If you can’t get hospital privileges, you can’t practice.”
Michael Leavitt, secretary of health and human services under President George W. Bush, summed up the medical establishment’s position: “[I]f a person goes to medical school, they lose their right of conscience.”
A man of faith in a godless age is hitting Americans where it hurts.
Mr. and Mrs. American Spectator Reader, let P.J. O’Rourke talk sense to your kids.
In Britain, defending your property can get you life.
The debacle of this president’s administration is both a cause and a symptom of the decline of American values. Unless Congress impeaches him, that decline will go on unchecked. An eminent jurist surveys the damage and assesses the chances for the recovery of our culture.
It won’t take long for conservatives to scratch this presidential wannabe off their 2008 scorecard.
The American Christmas, like the songs that celebrate it, makes room for everybody under the rainbow. Is that why so many people seem to be hostile to it?
Was the President done in by the economy, or by the politics of the economy?