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Will Congress Protect the Conscience Rights of Medical Professionals?

Will Congress Protect the Conscience Rights of Medical Professionals?

Fe Vinoya was inspired as a young girl to become a registered nurse. She entered the profession she loves 23 years ago in her native Philippines, dedicating herself to the care of the sick.

Seeking better opportunities in her profession, Fe came to the United States with her family. She thought she was coming to a land where freedom of conscience and religious liberty were enshrined and protected. That picture was challenged when she and 11 other nurses were told by their New Jersey hospital employers they must assist in abortions or lose their jobs. This was a direct affront to the right of conscience of these 12 nurses who had previously stated that they would not assist with abortions due to their Christian faith.

For Fe, who tells her story in the new Truth in Action special, Attack on Freedom, it was not a choice. “I am a Christian,” she says. “My belief is that abortion is nowhere in my faith.”

In fact, when the University of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey hospital told the nurses they had to assist with abortions or their employment would be terminated, it was breaking the law. There are several federal laws that protect the rights of conscience of medical workers, as does state law in New Jersey. Thus Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF, formerly Alliance Defense Fund) had good cause to file a lawsuit on behalf of the New Jersey nurses.

ADF senior legal counsel Matt Bowman says, "Pro-life nurses shouldn't be forced to assist in abortions against their beliefs.” He called change in the hospital’s policy, which would force the nurses to participate in the abortions regardless of their religious convictions, “flatly illegal."

That may all change, however.

The nurses won their case, thanks to the efforts of Alliance Defending Freedom. But the following day Dr. Joseph L. DeCook, executive director of the American Association of Prolife Obstetricians and Gynecologists (AAPLOG), cautioned: “Celebrate. But celebrate with restraint, as the ‘deniers of conscience rights’ will be back. A different time, a different venue, but they will be back. The right to follow our conscience convictions will be a central struggle in medical ‘ethics’ and pragmatic practice for the foreseeable future. We have won a battle, but the War will go on.”

AAPLOG has been fighting that war since it was founded in 1973, a week after the Supreme Court handed down Roe v. Wade. In the fall of 1972, Dr. Matthew J. Bulfin of Lauderdale-By-The-Sea, Florida, saw the tide coming when he read two journal articles from his professional association, the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG) -- the official professional association of doctors in this field.

Dr. Bulfin was stunned to see that his profession, which had always had a tradition of protecting and safeguarding both mothers and their babies, was now advocating abortion for “The Management of Sexual Crises in the Female,” and even advocating abortions for minors without parental consent. When the Supreme Court’s decision was announced, it became evident that ACOG had been laying the professional and intellectual groundwork for abortion on demand.

To provide a voice for those who believe in protecting the life of the unborn, Dr. Bulfin invited fellow obstetricians and gynecologists to join him in forming AAPLOG as a pro-life group within the larger association, ACOG. Among other activities, Dr. Bulfin's group began holding annual continuing education meetings for doctors and until several years ago these meetings were held at the Ft. Lauderdale church of Dr. D. James Kennedy.

At these meetings, the doctors hear the latest research and reports on the effects of abortion and related pro-life topics. This research, which is generally suppressed by the pro-choice medical establishment, has shown the traumatic effects of abortion, now referred to as “post-abortion syndrome.” It has also revealed startling connections between abortion and pre-term births and miscarriages, as well as an increased risk of breast cancer. This information is not being given to women who go to abortion centers for “advice.” (Information on these topics and more is available at

But medical education isn’t the only focus of these pro-life doctors. One of their greatest concerns is the increasing pressure put on pro-life physicians to perform abortions in violation of their consciences. The story of the 12 New Jersey nurses may be only the “tip of the spear.” Many in our government, the U.N., and other well-funded organizations are bent on promoting “universal access to abortion” and the idea that abortion should be “a fundamental human right.”

One of the most serious threats to the conscience rights of medical workers and professionals is right on the horizon -- Obamacare.

After the Supreme Court decided to uphold the Affordable Care Act and treat it as a tax, Dr. David Stevens, CEO of the Christian Medical Association, put out a public statement warning that the court’s decision “sounds an alarm across the country to people with faith-based and pro-life convictions.”

Dr. Stevens asked: “Who will stop U.S. Health and Human Services political appointees from forcing employers and individuals with faith-based convictions to subsidize abortion or life-ending contraceptives and imposing huge ‘faith fines’ on those of us who resist? What will stop this administration, with its radical pro-abortion agenda, from further undermining conscience rights and pursuing policies that effectively force out of medicine physicians with life-honoring convictions? ...”

“While court battles will continue over other aspects of the Affordable Care Act not addressed in today's decision, we have learned that we cannot simply rest in the hope that our courts will uphold Constitutional principles,” said Dr. Stevens. Therefore, he concluded, “We call on Congress to turn back this law's assault on our freedoms and restore American values and Constitutional principles in health care. Repeal this overreaching law and enact bipartisan, targeted health care reforms.”

The protection of the right of conscience of medical professionals is yet another reason why the 2012 election is critical to our nation and to our religious freedom.

Dr. Karen Gushta is a writer and researcher for Truth in Action Ministries (formerly Coral Ridge Ministries). Her most recent book is How Can America Survive? The Coming Economic Earthquake. She has also written The War on Children: How Pop Culture and Public Schools Put Our Kids at Risk (2009) and co-authored Ten Truths About Socialism (2010). As an educator, Dr. Gushta has taught kindergarten to graduate levels in both public and Christian schools in America and overseas. Her doctorate is in Philosophy of Education.

Publication date: July 20, 2012