Christian Doctors Urge Obama to Uphold Conscience Protections

An organization of Christian doctors warned on Wednesday that a rescission of conscience protections for healthcare workers is dangerous not only for the healthcare system but also for patients.

Their statements were issued ahead of today's midnight deadline for public comments on a proposed rescission of a rule that established a "conscience clause" for health care professionals who don't want to perform abortions.

President Obama has proposed to completely rescind the rule put into place by President Bush on his way out of office. If repealed, healthcare professionals could be forced to participate in abortion and other medical practices in violation of their moral or religious beliefs at the risk of losing their jobs or board certification.

The healthcare system could suffer a shortage of doctors, nurses, pharmacists while faith-based hospitals could be forced to close, argued Dr. David Stevens, CEO of the 15,000-member Christian Medical Association (CMA).

Patients are also at a loss, he said.

"They may soon find a sign hanging on the door of their doctor's office or hospital stating, 'Out of business. Wouldn't do abortions,'" said Stevens in a prepared statement for a press conference on Wednesday. "They have a right to choose a healthcare professional who shares their moral views."

Other Christian physicians, including Sandy Christiansen, a pro-life obstetrician/gynecologist, also echoed Stevens' concerns.

"The providers and institutions these regulations are seeking to protect are the very ones who provide most of the care to the poor and underserved in this country," said Christiansen, medical director of a Care Net Pregnancy Center in Frederick, MD.

"If I am faced with the choice between losing my job and being forced to perform an abortion, I will leave the practice of medicine. If we are chased out of medicine, who will step into the gap?"

On Wednesday, CMA released new survey results that show a majority of Americans oppose the Obama administration's plan to scrap the conscience rule. When asked to react to the proposed rescission, 63 percent of respondents said they support conscience protection regulation and 62 percent said they oppose rescinding the conscience clause.

The survey also found that 60 respondents who identified themselves as "pro-choice" said they favor the two-month old conscience protection rule.

CMA formed a coalition, Freedom2Care, with 34 other organizations to advance conscience protections. The coalition has sent a letter to President Obama asking for a meeting to discuss the rule.

Individuals have used the Freedom2Care website to send over 34,000 comments to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS).

Stevens noted that the protest over the proposed rescission isn't just about abortion

"Right of conscience will become increasingly important with other healthcare issues looming ahead – euthanasia, genetic engineering, human cloning and more," he said.

The Obama administration has cited several concerns over the rule, saying it "would limit access to patient care" and that people, in rural areas and those otherwise underserved, "could be denied access to services."