HHS proposed stronger job protections for doctors and other healthcare workers who refuse to participate in abortions because of religious or moral objections.
This proposed regulation is about the legal right of a healthcare professional to practice according to their conscience, HHS Secretary Mike Leavitt said in a written statement. Doctors and other healthcare providers should not be forced to choose between good professional standing and violating their conscience. Freedom of expression and action should not be surrendered upon the issuance of a healthcare degree.
Congress over the past 30 years had enacted several statutes to safeguard freedoms known as provider-conscience rights. For example, in 1996 a new section was added to the Public Health Service Act to prohibit government organizations from discriminating against healthcare providers that refused to perform abortions and other related activities.
However, many in the healthcare industry and members of the general public are unaware these laws exist.
In addition to raising awareness of these laws, HHS proposed regulation would require as many as 584,000 employers ranging from major hospitals to doctors offices and nursing homes to certify in writing that they are complying with several federal laws that protect the conscience rights of healthcare workers. Violations could lead to a loss of government funding and legal action to recoup federal money already paid. -- by Jennifer Lubell