Attack on Catholic health care unwarranted, based on errors of fact

A recent Boston Globe article, which targeted Catholic health care providers and laws that protect them from participating in abortion, is based on egregious errors of fact, says Maureen K. Bailey, public policy analyst for the U.S. bishops’ Secretariat for Pro-Life Activities.

In her article, Boston Globe columnist Ellen Goodman attacks “the ‘conscience clauses’ being pushed to let healthcare workers and whole institutions opt out of providing healthcare, especially reproductive care, on religious grounds.”

Goodman concludes: “At some point doesn’t religious practice become medical malpractice?”

Bailey explains that “it is not medical malpractice for healthcare providers to decline providing elective procedures.” She points out that the American medical, nursing and pharmaceutical associations all support the right of providers to decline participating in any procedure on the basis of conscience.

In fact, 47 states protect the right of health care providers to decline involvement in abortion.

Bailey says Goodman has used the Catholic Church as “a convenient target, to distract attention from the reality that few health care providers (religious or secular) are comfortable with destruction of human life as ‘medicine.’”

For more than two decades, Bailey points out, the federal government has not funded abortions except in rare circumstances, and 88 percent of all hospitals – religious and non-religious – do not participate in abortions.

In addition, Goodman’s suggestion that Catholic health care has always been on the margin of mainstream medicine ignores the fact that it was Catholic religious orders, particularly women’s orders, that helped build the U.S. health care system, says Bailey.

She adds that Catholic health care ethics is right in line with the Hippocratic oath in teaching that first of all we must do our patients no harm.

“Recently, however, pro-abortion groups have launched attacks on this right, exploiting loopholes in statutes and engaging in a new public relations strategy that Goodman exemplifies,” she continues. “In some states, pro-abortion groups have managed to force hospitals to open their doors for late-term abortions, and have blocked cost-saving mergers that would improve patient care when the resulting entity would not be performing abortions.”

The House of Representatives has passed the Hyde/Weldon Conscience Protection Amendment, to prohibit governmental discrimination against health care providers who object to participating in abortions.

The amendment is now part of the House-approved Labor/HHS appropriations bill, which awaits action by a Conference Committee to work out differences between House and Senate versions of the bill.

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