Defense of conscience critical to pro-life movement, scholar says
Prof. Robert P. George speaks at Georgetown University on Jan. 20, 2014. Credit: Addie Mena/CNA.
Prof. Robert P. George speaks at Georgetown University on Jan. 20, 2014. Credit: Addie Mena/CNA.
By Adelaide Mena
Facebook Twitter Google+ Pinterest Addthis

.- Prevailing attitudes toward abortion within the medical community show the need to safeguard conscience rights while working to protect life, said Princeton law professor Robert P. George.

“Today, many of those who would sanction and support the taking of human life by abortion or in embryo-destructive research have also made themselves the enemies of conscience,” said George in a Jan. 20 talk at Georgetown University in Washington, D.C.  

“We, who are the friends of life, must also be the friends of conscience.”

George, who is the chairman of the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom, delivered the keynote address at the 2014 Cardinal O'Connor Conference on Life, the largest student-run pro-life conference in the country.  

In addition to currently serving as the McCormick Professor of Jurisprudence at Princeton University and a visiting professor at Harvard Law School, George previously served on the President's Council on Bioethics. He has written numerous books and articles on a variety of topics, including the defense of conscience, life and marriage.

Pointing to testimony given by the American College of Obstetrics and Gynecology, George explained that abortion supporters defend their position by discussing abortion “as if it were a matter of health care, rather than what it typically is, namely, a decision based upon non-medical considerations.”

The testimony presented by the medical organization illustrates a definition of “medicine,” he continued, that is “not about the preservation and restoration of health” in a concrete manner, but instead centers on “satisfying the personal preferences or lifestyle desires of people,” whether or not the surgeries and procedures they request “are in any meaningful sense medically indicated.”

Abortion, he said, is not a question of  “'reproductive health' or health of any kind, precisely because direct abortions are not procedures designed to make sick people healthy or to protect them against disease.”

In the case of elective abortion, George observed, a woman is not sick. “Pregnancy is not a disease. It is a natural process.”

The push to label direct abortion as health care, he said, is not about medicine, but about ideology. “It is about politics and political power.”

Questions about the personhood of the unborn human and the morality of abortion can only be solved with the help of philosophic reflection and debate, the scholar stated. Calling abortion 'health care' as a matter of medicinal fact, is therefore “rhetorical manipulation” because it encompasses “a philosophical, ethical, and political opinion.”

“It is a judgment brought to medicine, not a judgment derived from it.”

George commented that it is misleading and dishonest to discuss elective abortion, in vitro fertilization and other procedures that “facilitate people's lifestyle choices” as if they were an essential part of medicine..

Efforts to do so represent “a sheer power play on behalf of pro-abortion individuals” in the medical profession, he added.

The report from the American College of Obstetrics and Gynecology depicts the medical profession going to great lengths to impose its “partisan position,” George said, and this shows “who in the debate is guilty of intolerance.”

Asserting that women have the “right” to demand that doctors kill their developing unborn babies, the report suggests limiting the right of doctors and other medical professionals to decline to perform of refer for abortions.

Ironically, George observed, “those responsible for the report and its recommendations evidently would use coercion” to force doctors and pharmacists to carry out procedures that violate their conscience.

On the other hand, he noted, a physician who refuses to participate in an abortion “is not 'imposing' anything on anyone.”

Ongoing attempts to coercively impose an accepting view of abortion on all doctors now threaten the consciences of pro-life physicians – and their ability to continue practicing, George said.

If the recommendations of the American College of Obstetrics and Gynecology were to be followed, he said, “their field of medical practice would be cleansed of pro-life physicians whose convictions required them to refrain from performing or referring for abortions.”

This means that faithful Catholic, Evangelical and other Protestant doctors, as well as many observant Jews and Muslims, would be forced out of medicine, he explained.

“The entire field would be composed of people who could be relied on either to agree with, or at a minimum go along with, the moral and political convictions of the report's authors,” he said.

In light of these trends, George called pro-life supporters to “be conscience’s best friends.”

He asked the students to resist definitions of abortion as healthcare, “not only for the sake of defending the lives of our most vulnerable brothers and sisters – children in the womb – but also in defense of what James Madison called 'the sacred rights of conscience'.”
“For many of us, standing up for conscience means defending the principles of our faith,” George said. “For all of us, standing up for conscience means defending principles on which our nation was founded.”

Tags: Religious freedom, Abortion, Pro-life, Conscience Protection

Ads by AdsLiveMedia(What's this?)

* The number of messages that can be online is limited. CNA reserves the right to edit messages for content and tone. Comments and opinions expressed by users do not necessarily reflect the opinions or beliefs of CNA. CNA will not publish comments with abusive language, insults or links to other pages


Ads by Google (What's this?)
Ads by Google

Featured Videos

Cardinal Luis Tagle to Pope Francis
Cardinal Luis Tagle to Pope Francis
Pope Francis in the Philippines: Manila Welcomes the Pope
Pope Francis in Sri Lanka: Highlights
Pope Francis in Sri Lanka: Interview with Cardinal Ranjith
Pope Francis in SriLanka: Inter-religious Faith Meeting
Little Sisters of the Poor press conference in Denver
Family thrilled to see Pope Francis in Istanbul
Syrian Refugee, Sara, 14, Before Meeting Pope
Ebola orphans thousands of children in West Africa
One year after Haiyan: Philippines rebuilds homes, lives
An Indian contribution to the Vatican's Synod on the Family
Christ Cathedral CNA video Sept 2014
Alejandro Bermudez of CNA accepts ice bucket challenge
'The Real Albania,' remembering those who fled
Pope Francis in Albania, "one of the most important visits of the post-communist era in Albania"
Pope Francis greets paralyzed man who risked all to see him
Franciscans on the banks of the Tiber in Rome, working for the New Evangelization
Pilgrimage from Czech Republic to Assisi and Rome for intentions
Testimony of young Indian who met Pope in Korea
Preparations of the Closing Mass of 6th Asian Youth Day

Liturgical Calendar

January 30, 2015

Friday of the Third Week in Ordinary Time

All readings:
Today »
This year »

Catholic Daily

Gospel of the Day

Mk 4:26-34


Daily Readings

Saint of the Day

St. Romuald »


Homily of the Day

Mk 4:26-34