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Wednesday, May 24, 2017

Court victory protects Vermont physicians from assisted suicide option counseling mandate

The Christian Medical Association CMA, www.cmda.org) celebrates a court victory, thanks to Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF), that protects Vermont physicians from being forced to violate the Hippocratic oath and participate in assisted suicide. (Which tells you, of course, that doctors who participate in assisted suicide have dismissed a vital patient protection of the Hippocratic oath--so choose your doctor carefully.)
ADF's news release [emphases added] on the victory follows:

Victory for Vermont health professionals after pro-suicide group drops appeal

Compassion & Choices withdraws appeal of court decision that affirmed pro-life physician groups aren’t mandated to counsel, refer for assisted suicide
Tuesday, May 23, 2017
RUTLAND, Vt. – A pro-suicide group has dropped its appeal of a federal court’s decision which affirmed that a Vermont law can’t be interpreted to require pro-life health professionals to counsel or refer patients for assisted suicide. As a result, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 2nd Circuit officially dismissed the appeal Monday, thus ending the case.
The withdrawal of the appeal by Compassion & Choices leaves in place a consent agreement between physician groups and the Vermont Attorney General’s office, which agreed that the court was correct in deciding that the state’s Act 39 does not force conscientious professionals to ensure all “terminal” patients are informed about the availability of doctor-prescribed death.
ADF's Steve Aden
“Vermont health care workers just want to act consistently with their reasonable and time-honored convictions without fear of government punishment,” said ADF Senior Counsel Steven H. Aden, who argued before the U.S. District Court for the District of Vermont in November of last year in Vermont Alliance for Ethical Healthcare v. Hoser. “Conscientious Vermont healthcare professionals are in agreement with the state that the law doesn’t force them to participate in this heinous process, and they are pleased that the nation’s foremost advocate of assisted suicide, Compassion & Choices, has abandoned its effort to force them to do so.”
Alliance Defending Freedom attorneys and ADF-allied attorney Michael Tierney represent the Vermont Alliance for Ethical Healthcare and the Christian Medical and Dental Association, groups of medical professionals who wish to abide by their oath to “do no harm.”
Act 39, Vermont’s assisted suicide bill, passed with a very limited protection for attending physicians who don’t wish to dispense death-inducing drugs themselves, but state medical licensing authorities construed a separate, existing mandate to counsel and refer for “all options” for palliative care to include a mandate that all patients hear about the “option” of assisted suicide. For that reason, the groups representing pro-life health professionals filed suit.
The court ruled that the groups lacked a legal right to bring the lawsuit because the law actually doesn’t force them to act contrary to their conscience—a finding that Compassion & Choices initially opposed. The dismissal of the appeal leaves Vermont healthcare professionals free to “do no harm” without fear of retaliation for their pro-life views.
Alliance Defending Freedom is an alliance-building, non-profit legal organization that advocates for the right of people to freely live out their faith.
Previous news releases:
  • 2017-04-05: Vt. health professionals planning next legal steps after decision on conscientious objection to providing suicide info
  • 2016-11-07: Health professionals to court: Don’t allow Vermont to force us to help kill patients
  • 2016-09-26: Health professionals ask court to stop Vermont from forcing them to help kill patients
  • 2016-07-20: Vermont health professionals: Don’t force us to help kill our patients

Monday, May 15, 2017

Administration expands policy keeping foreign assistance from funding abortion groups overseas

In a phone briefing this morning originating at the U.S. Department of State, an administration official outlined Secretary of State Rex Tillerson's new plan, effective today, that expands the "Mexico City policy" that Republican presidents have employed to keep our foreign assistance tax dollars from propping up abortion groups overseas.
The Trump administration's presidential memorandum of January 2017 built upon and expanded previous directive by Republican presidents George W. Bush and Ronald Reagan. The Trump memorandum also directed the Secretary of State to develop an implementation plan.
That plan makes clear that the ban on funding related to certain abortion issues (details outlined in the timeline below) will now apply to any entity that receives US government foreign aid funding, including for programs such as HIV/AIDS, maternal and child health, malaria, family planning and reproductive health. Select programs including, for example, programs involving humanitarian assistance or defense, are not affected by this policy.
The State Department official also explained the bottom line for the expansion of the Mexico City policy. Whereas in previous years the abortion-related funding ban impacted roughly $500-$600 million in foreign assistance funds, the Trump policy now will impact $8.8 billion.

"Mexico City Policy" timeline

  1. 1984 - Reagan: At a population conference in Mexico City in 1984, the Reagan Administration announced that the United States would no longer contribute to nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) "which perform or actively promote abortion as a method of family planning in other nations."
  2. 1993 - Clinton: rescinds.
  3. 2001 – George W. Bush
    1. reinstates "in full all of the requirements of the Mexico City Policy in effect on January 19, 1993" and stipulates "no funding re: "perform nor actively promote abortion as a method of family planning in other nations."
    2. applies to State Dept./USAID
  4. 2009 – Obama rescinds.
  5. 2017 – Trump
    1. "reinstates the Presidential Memorandum of January 22, 2001";
    2. directs Sec. State "to implement a plan to extend the requirements of the reinstated Memorandum to global health assistance furnished by all departments or agencies."
    3. "further directs the Secretary of State to take all necessary actions, to the extent permitted by law, to ensure that U.S. taxpayer dollars do not fund organizations or programs that support or participate in the management of a program of coercive abortion or involuntary sterilization."

Thursday, May 4, 2017

Linking healthcare access to conscience freedoms, Christian Medical Association hails Presidential Executive Order

[The President's Executive Order text follows this press statement]
Washington, DC, May 4, 2017--Citing the link between patient access to healthcare and conscience freedom for health professionals, the 18,000-member Christian Medical Association (CMA, www.cmda.org) today expressed gratitude for President Trump's executive order that begins to provide stronger protections against discrimination against individuals and organizations of faith.
"Protecting religious freedom means protecting the millions of individuals served by organizations and professionals who are motivated and guided by the tenets of their faith," explained Dr. David Stevens, CEO of the 85-year-old nonpartisan organization of Christian doctors and students. "The faith that compels so many health professionals to minister to patients in underserved areas and populations is the same faith that compels us to practice according to moral and ethical guidelines. Conscience freedoms are the foundation of our service.
"When the government refuses to accommodate those faith principles, or--as we experienced in the previous administration's contraceptives and transgender mandates--attempts to coerce people of faith to violate those principles, those who suffer include the poor, the marginalized and the vulnerable."
Represented by Becket Law, the Christian Medical Association recently successfully challenged the Obama administration's transgender mandate. Represented by Americans United for Life, CMA filed an amicus brief in the contraceptives mandate Supreme Court case, Zubik v. Burwell.
CMA also worked to help establish the nation's first health professionals' conscience protection rule, promulgated in 2008 by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. The Obama administration subsequently gutted the conscience rule and also attempted to force faith-based organizations to participate in morally objectionable contraceptives such as Plan B and the morning-after pill.

"We are grateful for this executive order that begins to turn the tide back toward freedom of faith and speech, including political speech. Americans do not give up their First Amendment protections when they speak from the pulpit, counsel their patients or minister in a faith-based outreach to help the poor," Dr. Stevens observed. "Threatening the First Amendment freedoms of any one group threatens the First Amendment freedoms of all of us, and protecting those freedoms protects us all." 
-----
EXECUTIVE ORDER
PROMOTING FREE SPEECH AND RELIGIOUS LIBERTY
      By the authority vested in me as President by the Constitution and the laws of the United States of America, in order to guide the executive branch in formulating and implementing policies with implications for the religious liberty of persons and organizations in America, and to further compliance with the Constitution and with applicable statutes and Presidential Directives, it is hereby ordered as follows:

     Section 1Policy.  It shall be the policy of the executive branch to vigorously enforce Federal law's robust protections for religious freedom.  The Founders envisioned a Nation in which religious voices and views were integral to a vibrant public square, and in which religious people and institutions were free to practice their faith without fear of discrimination or retaliation by the Federal Government.  For that reason, the United States Constitution enshrines and protects the fundamental right to religious liberty as Americans' first freedom.  Federal law protects the freedom of Americans and their organizations to exercise religion and participate fully in civic life without undue interference by the Federal Government.  The executive branch will honor and enforce those protections.

     Sec. 2Respecting Religious and Political Speech.  All executive departments and agencies (agencies) shall, to the greatest extent practicable and to the extent permitted by law, respect and protect the freedom of persons and organizations to engage in religious and political speech.  In particular, the Secretary of the Treasury shall ensure, to the extent permitted by law, that the Department of the Treasury does not take any adverse action against any individual, house of worship, or other religious organization on the basis that such individual or organization speaks or has spoken about moral or political issues from a religious perspective, where speech of similar character has, consistent with law, not ordinarily been treated as participation or intervention in a political campaign on behalf of (or in opposition to) a candidate for public office by the Department of the Treasury.  As used in this section, the term "adverse action" means the imposition of any tax or tax penalty; the delay or denial of tax-exempt status; the disallowance of tax deductions for contributions made to entities exempted from taxation under section 501(c)(3) of title 26, United States Code; or any other action that makes unavailable or denies any tax deduction, exemption, credit, or benefit.

     Sec. 3.  Conscience Protections with Respect to Preventive-Care Mandate.  The Secretary of the Treasury, the Secretary of Labor, and the Secretary of Health and Human Services shall consider issuing amended regulations, consistent with applicable law, to address conscience-based objections to the preventive-care mandate promulgated under section 300gg-13(a)(4) of title 42, United States Code.

     Sec. 4Religious Liberty Guidance.  In order to guide all agencies in complying with relevant Federal law, the Attorney General shall, as appropriate, issue guidance interpreting religious liberty protections in Federal law.

     Sec. 5.  Severability.  If any provision of this order, or the application of any provision to any individual or circumstance, is held to be invalid, the remainder of this order and the application of its other provisions to any other individuals or circumstances shall not be affected thereby.  

     Sec. 6General Provisions.  (a)  Nothing in this order shall be construed to impair or otherwise affect:

(i)   the authority granted by law to an executive department or agency, or the head thereof; or

(ii)  the functions of the Director of the Office of Management and Budget relating to budgetary, administrative, or legislative proposals.

     (b)  This order shall be implemented consistent with applicable law and subject to the availability of appropriations.

     (c)  This order is not intended to, and does not, create any right or benefit, substantive or procedural, enforceable at law or in equity by any party against the United States, its departments, agencies, or entities, its officers, employees, or agents, or any other person.
DONALD J. TRUMP
THE WHITE HOUSE,

May 4, 2017.