Proposed Healthcare Regulations on Provider Conscience: Letter to HHS

Dear HHS:

Existing federal laws prohibiting the rampant discrimination in the healthcare profession are being ignored, and the Department's proposed regulations are urgently needed in order to ensure that pro-life physicians, nurses, physician assistants, and others are able to remain in the practice and that the next generation of medical professionals can enter the profession with the confidence that they will not be forced to choose between their career and their conscience.

My own experience as an academic has been informative. Abortion advocates have launched postcard campaigns opposing the regulations, yet their concerns lack constitutional merit, and proffer the annihilation of fundamental rights of health care professionals in so many ways. Discrimination against pro-life medical professionals does not expand access to abortion. Rather, it drives a critical segment of the medical workforce from the profession, diminishing access to medical care and increasing costs.

Exercise of one’s rights of conscience is fundamental to American freedom and foundational to quality health care services. Please remember that existing conscience protections were passed with bipartisan support. These laws have been on the books for as long as three decades – the Department ought to uphold them inherently. I strongly urge the Secretary of HHS to interpret the existing regulations to explicitly protect medical professionals from being forced to dispense or refer for chemical abortifacients like RU-486 and "Plan B." My own scholarship has focused on this last point, and that work is posted here (which has been published at From Eisenstadt to Plan B, 33 Wm. Mitchell L. Rev. 787 (2007) and cited in Jennifer E. Spreng, Pharmacists and the "Duty" To Dispense Emergency Contraceptives, 23 Issues L. & Med. 215 

(2008); James T. O’Reilly, Losing Deference in the FDA’s Second Century: Judicial Review, Politics, and a Diminished Legacy, 93 Cornell L. Rev. 939 (2008); 23 Issues L. & Med. 301 (2008); 83 N. Dak. L. Rev. 1365 (2008); 9 U. Pa. J. Lab. & Emp. L. 235 (2007).

Please uphold conscience regulations on behalf of quality health care in America.

Thank you for your kind consideration.

Lynne Marie Kohm John Brown McCarty Professor of Family Law Regent University School of Law

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