President Barack Obama’s Department of Health and Human Services has issued a new administrative rule that could force any hospital or health provider receiving Medicaid funding or any insurer participating in the Obamacare marketplaces to provide abortions.
HHS’s summary says the rule’s purpose is to prohibit sex discrimination in health care, which the rule defines as including “termination of pregnancy.” In addition to losing Medicaid funds, violators of the rule may be faced with civil suits as well as legal action by the Justice Department, upon it taking effect on July 18.
According to HHS, the rule neither “include[s] a religious exemption” nor “displace[s] existing protections for religious freedom and conscience,” which the government claims are sufficient to protect the conscience rights of those who object to abortion.
However, pro-life leaders contend the regulation cannot be trusted to respect conscience rights once in practice, due to the Obama Administration’s refusal to simply remove the “termination of pregnancy” language. “This action erodes Americans’ freedom to believe and act in accordance with their beliefs,” Family Research Council Vice President of Government Affairs David Christensen said. “We urge Congress to address this gross injustice.”
Association of American Physicians and Surgeons executive director Dr. Jane Orient added, “It appears that the government is presuming to dictate medical ethics, and to turn them upside down: Thou SHALT do whatever we say, rather than thou SHALT NOT do evil things, such as killing, harming, or lying to patients.”
If interpreted to mandate abortions, the impact could be massive. American Principles Project communications director Jon Schweppe notes that 62% of all hospitals in the United States are nonprofit, and therefore “simply can’t function without [Medicaid] funding.” On the other hand, Dr. Orient theorizes that rejecting federal funding may have the opposite effect: “This will also free them from a suffocating burden of costly regulations, enabling them to offer superior care at a fraction of today’s prices–and to preserve patient privacy.”