Sen. Coburn says pro-life docs would prefer jail to violating consciences

Sen. Coburn says pro-life docs would prefer jail to violating consciences

Sen. Tom Coburn
Sen. Tom Coburn


Obstetrician and gynecologist Sen. Tom Coburn (R-Oklahoma) has said that pro-life medical practitioners will “go to jail” rather than violate their conscience if the Obama administration reverses federal conscience protection rules.

In an interview with on Friday in Washington, D.C., Sen. Coburn was asked what he thought would happen if the administration reverses the policy.

“I think a lot of us will go to jail,” he said. “Let’s see them prosecute the first one of us for not doing that.”

In the final months of the George W. Bush Administration, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Service (HHS) implemented a conscience protection regulation reflecting existing federal protections for healthcare providers’ consciences.

The Bush rule protects healthcare workers at federally funded institutions from being forced to engage in practices that violate their moral or religious beliefs, such as performing or referring for abortions, performing sterilizations, or giving or receiving training in such procedures.

The rule also clarifies that conscience protections also apply to pro-life institutions.

On Friday, the White House’s Office of Management and Budget (OMB) announced that it was reviewing a proposal to modify or lift the HHS conscience protection regulation implemented in the final months of the George W. Bush Administration.

The review is the first step in the rule’s reversal, which would not affect existing federal conscience protections.

Explaining the need for the rule in a December announcement, the HHS said the regulation would increase “awareness of and compliance with” federal law.

The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops has supported the regulation, citing in a Sept. 12 letter the “growing hostility on the part of some professional organizations and advocacy groups to rights of conscience in health care” and describing other “undisguised hostility to conscience rights.”

The Catholic Health Association, which represents Catholic hospitals, and the Christian Medical Association also supported the rule’s implementation.

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