WASHINGTON (BP)--A pro-life U.S. senator's effort to safeguard the conscience rights of patients and health-care workers went down to a resounding defeat as the Obama administration moved closer to apparent repeal of a regulation providing such protections.
"To coerce a physician by law to take another human life by abortion, euthanasia or at any time in between is a violation of everything sacred in medicine."
-- bioethics expert
C. Ben Mitchell
The Senate defeated Sen. Tom Coburn's amendment to the $3.5 trillion budget bill in a 56-41 vote. The roll call came a week before a 30-day public comment period closes April 9 on a proposal to rescind a rule by the Bush administration to protect medical professionals from coercion and discrimination. The Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) announced March 10 it planned to cancel the regulation, which was issued in December.
Health-care providers and patients may comment on the proposed repeal of the rule by e-mail. They may do so by e-mailing firstname.lastname@example.org and referring to "Rescission Proposal." Or they may express their opinion to HHS through www.freedom2care.org, the website of a coalition established by the Christian Medical Association (CMA).
The final resolution of the rule regarding conscience rights could affect not only doctors but nurses, pharmacists, medical students, hospitals and insurance companies regarding such practices as abortion and assisted suicide and such products as the Plan B "morning-after" pill and contraceptives with abortifacient qualities.
Coburn, a Republican who continues to practice medicine in Oklahoma, designed the April 2 amendment to protect the conscience rights of health-care workers and the freedom of patients from being required to see a certain doctor or enroll in a specific health-care plan. The measure would have barred money in the proposed budget's $634 billion health-care reserve fund from being used for such purposes. Read More