The Washington Post recently ran a surprisingly balanced report on conscience rights,"New health-care law raises concerns about respecting providers' consciences." I had worked with Post reporter Rob Stein as he researched the various perspectives and technical questions about conscience provisions in the new healthcare law. I congratulate Rob on focusing on the key issues and presenting a reasonably balanced summary. Here are a few excerpts:
Deep within the massive health-care overhaul legislation, a few little-noticed provisions have quietly reignited one of the bitterest debates in medicine: how to balance the right of doctors, nurses and other workers to refuse to provide services on moral or religious grounds with the right of patients to get care.As with other aspects of the new healthcare law, many Americans are just now realizing how dangerous it is and will be. That's why some Members of Congress whom I've talked with in closed-door meetings are advocating a one-step repeal-and-reform strategy to undo the damage and enact truly healthy healthcare reform.
...But some argue that the legislation does not go nearly far enough, given the breadth of the new legislation and possible unanticipated effects. For example, the legislation does not protect workers who oppose abortion from discrimination by any entities other than health plans, leaving federal, state and local governments, clinics, hospitals and others potentially free to compel providers to perform abortions, they say.
"At the end of the day regarding the legislation, a pro-life health-care professional is left with a weak and limited conscience provision that doesn't even prohibit discrimination by governments and institutions," said Jonathan Imbody, vice president for government relations at the Christian Medical Association.
And the legislation does not safeguard doctors, nurses and others who object to anything else, especially care that might be mandated by the federal government as "essential services," such as birth control pills, sterilization, genetic testing and in-vitro fertilization. Read the full article
What to do? Find out where your Congressional candidates stand on healthcare law repeal and reform, and vote accordingly.