Religious institutions have long been an essential part of health care delivery in our nation. Long before government programs began monopolizing the health care industry, religious institutions were providing care to the poor and most vulnerable. Today, Catholic health care facilities alone make up a third of the nation’s hospitals. As the federal government has encroached further and further into health care decision making, religious freedom advocates have passed a number of laws designed to protect the consciences of health care providers. But these laws have rarely been enforced.

Seeking to better end discrimination against health care providers who object to participating in controversial medical procedures, the Bush Administration issued a regulation intended to increase awareness among health care professionals of their rights, finally assign proper enforcement responsibility within HHS, and bring needed clarity to laws that have essentially been gathering dust for decades.

Just five weeks into his presidency, the Obama Administration officially signaled their intention to rescind this regulation. An Obama HHS official explained to the Washington Post:  “We’ve been concerned that the way the Bush rule is written, it could make it harder for women to get the care they need. It is worded so vaguely that some have argued it could limit family-planning counseling and even potentially blood transfusions and end-of-life care.” But as Heritage fellow Randy Pate argues the regulation clarified the law for the first time and assigned an enforcement home within HHS. Pate continues:

[T]he proposed rescission would do away with the progress that has been made and replace it with nothing. Because the conscience protection laws themselves aren’t going away, rescinding the regulation would result in real ambiguity and confusion. … Why rush to roll back conscience protections for health care professionals? If the Obama Administration is genuinely concerned about potential confusion here—rather than just pandering to the extreme pro-abortion lobby—the proper course is to let the regulations operate for a while and see what happens. Instead, the proposed rescission is an attempt to impose a “gag rule” that prevents meaningful enforcement of conscience laws and leaves health care professionals in the dark about their rights.

The head of the Christian Medical & Dental Associations David Stevens went even further, telling the Washington Post: “It is open season to again discriminate against health-care professionals. Our Founding Fathers, who bled and died to guarantee our religious freedom, are turning over in their graves.”

Federal law requires the Obama Administration to solicit comments from the American people and substantively respond to them before any regulation can attain the force of law. You can contact the Department of Health and Human Services and let them know how you feel about Obama’s destruction of the conscience clause here at A Doctor’s Right. You have until April 9, to have your voice heard.

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