Sunday, December 5, 2010

Attacking the conscience rights of their own members

Like the National Association of Social Workers, which released a statement last May 2010 attacking the conscience rights of its members and subordinating them to client autonomy (see ), the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG) has reaffirmed its notorious 2007 Ethics Committee position #385 on the limits of conscientious refusal in reproductive medicine.

Odd that they persist in describing the killing of unborn children as a part of "reproductive medicine" since abortion seldom has anything to do with treating illness, and is never about doing no harm, or reproduction, and violates the Hippocratic Oath!

In a forthcoming piece in the Journal of Social Work Values and Ethics, I conclude:
In the case of the life issues, the issue at stake is the fundamental moral proscription on the intentional taking of innocent human life. This has been a basic principle of ethics for millennia, an exceptionless norm which binds the consciences of all in societies where the conscience is recognized at all. To kill justly requires at least that the person is not innocent (as in capital punishment or enemy soldiers in a just war); or is not a fully human person (as has been argued in the case of Blacks, Jews, and unborn babies); or that killing is not the intent but an unintended side effect (as with deaths of nearby civilians from the bombing of a military target).

Of course, moral relativists, situationists, consequentialists, and ethical emotivists may deny the existence or binding nature of such a proscription on the killing of innocents. I will not take up here the objections to these stances in moral philosophy, but simply note that if it is wrong to kill a person, then it is also wrong to get someone else to do it. If it is, as I believe, a grave evil for me to murder my spouse, it is no less wrong to hire someone else to do it for me.

None of this has anything to do with imposing my views on the client, as anti-exemptionists and militant secularists often claim. Patients and clients have an uncontested moral right to informed consent and informed refusal. But this is not the issue, as Pellegrino (2008) argues. The client may find abortion morally permissible and it is certainly legally permissible in the United States. I respect her right under law to decide to have an abortion and will not condemn, moralize, or argue with her. But this is not the issue. “Conscientious objection, “ as Pellegrino (2008) says, “implies the physician’s right not to participate in what she thinks morally wrong, even if the patient demands it. It does not presume the right to impose her will or conception of the good on the patient” (p.299).


ACOG Again Denies Conscience Rights of Doctors on Abortion

by Bill Saunders | | 11/29/10 2:02 PM

The hostilities toward conscience rights are abundant. This month the American College of Obstetrics and Gynecology (ACOG) reviewed and reaffirmed the 2007 Ethics Committee Number 385, entitled The Limits of Conscientious Refusal in Reproductive Medicine.

And last week a pro-life nurse was denied the right to sue the hospital where she was forced to participate in abortion. There has never been a greater need to pass comprehensive conscience protection measures than there is now.

The ACOG Ethics Committee rule requires pro-life physicians to refer for abortions. Furthermore, it disparages the notion of conscience to nothing more than a subjective feeling. It suggests that pro-life physicians should relocate in order to better refer patients to nearby abortionists. And it proposes that patient autonomy trumps a physician’s right to conscience.

These rules get their teeth when they are coupled with the requirements for board certification found in the 2011 Bulletin for Basic Certification in Obstetrics and Gynecology from the American Board of Obstetrics and Gynecology (ABOG). Section III Part F of this Bulletin explains that an individual can have his or her board certification revoked if he or she acts in “violation of ABOG or ACOG rules and/or ethical principles.” This means that refusing to conform to the ACOG recommendations could result in the loss of livelihood for healthcare providers.

Another example of antagonism toward conscience protection came from the 2nd Circuit Court of Appeals this week, when it denied Catherina Lorena Cenzon-DeCarlo the right to sue Mount Sinai Hospital in New York for forcing her to participate in the abortion of a 22-week unborn child. This nurse asserted her rights under the Church Amendment, the 1973 law designed to protect healthcare practitioners from being coerced into participation in abortion. Unfortunately, the court did not recognize an individual’s right to enforce that freedom. Clearly, there is a great need to strengthen conscience protection laws.

The new Congress has the opportunity to further establish conscience protection for healthcare providers like Catherina DeCarlo from coercive employers or board certifying organizations. The new Congress should make it a priority to pursue a law that will make the Hyde/ Weldon Conscience Protection permanent.

Hyde/ Weldon prohibits federal, state, or local governments from discriminating against any institutional or individual healthcare entity that does not provide, pay for, provide coverage of, or refer for abortions. This amendment has a broad scope of protection—but Hyde/Weldon is an appropriations rider that is subject to annual renewal. The way to make the protection stronger is (1) to make Hyde/Weldon permanent, and (2) to include an express remedy for healthcare providers and entities, allowing them the right to sue for damages when their rights are violated.

Retrieved December 5, 2010 from

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