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Catholics Call on President-Elect Obama to Rescind Refusal Clause Regulation

December 18, 2008

Washington, DC —“The conscience, or more correctly refusal clause regulation issued by the Bush administration attacks the health options open to women and men throughout the United States,” said Jon O’Brien, president of Catholics for Choice in a statement.

“This regulation represents a low point in the administration’s eight-year campaign to restrict and deny access to reproductive healthcare in the US and abroad. From day one, with the imposition of the Global Gag Rule, the administration has tried to impose its ideology on the choices available to women and men seeking to exercise their legal rights in the healthcare arena. Today’s regulation significantly expands the concept of refusal clauses beyond protecting the religious and moral beliefs of healthcare providers. Promoted by the antichoice movement and under the guise of protecting religious freedom, this clause now serves as a means for medical professionals to opt out of providing essential reproductive healthcare services and medications. It will be the poor and powerless who will be most affected by this draconian measure.

“While some have erroneously pointed to Catholic teaching to support the imposition of ever-more restrictive refusal clauses, the reality is that these clauses are anathema to the Catholic tradition. Catholic teaching requires due deference to the conscience of others in making decisions—meaning that healthcare providers must not dismiss the conscience of the person seeking care.

“The goal of any reasonable conscience clause must be to strike the right balance between the right of healthcare professionals to provide care that is in line with their moral and religious beliefs and the right of patients to have access to the medical care they need. At times when the conscience of an individual doctor, nurse or pharmacist may conflict with the wishes or needs of a patient, patients should not have to worry about the religious and moral beliefs of their providers interfering with the provision of the best possible care.

“As the next administration has made clear its support for reproductive rights, we call upon President-elect Obama to rescind this regulation in favor of a one that upholds the right to sexual and reproductive health.”

See also the CFC publication, In Good Conscience.