ADF, CLS focus attention on rights of conscience in health care battle

HARTFORD, Conn., and NEW YORK — In a busy week of debate in Washington over health care reform, attorneys with the Alliance Defense Fund are moving forward with efforts in four different lawsuits to ensure that conscience protections for health care workers are not ignored. ADF is working together with the Christian Legal Society’s Center for Law & Religious Freedom in three of those efforts.

“Medical professionals should not be punished for holding to their beliefs, and they should not be forced to perform abortions against their conscience. It’s imperative that the government not ignore protections for the men and women who save lives and provide healing to millions,” said ADF Legal Counsel Casey Mattox.

ADF and CLS attorneys re-filed motions to intervene in three separate lawsuits Friday on behalf of three pro-life medical associations that wish to defend a federal law protecting health care workers from discrimination for refusing to participate in abortions. ADF attorneys also sent the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services a letter urging the department to enforce existing conscience regulations in the case of a New York nurse forced to assist in a late-term abortion. ADF filed a federal lawsuit on her behalf last year.

In 2009, ADF and CLS filed motions to intervene in National Family Planning & Reproductive Health Association v. Leavitt, Planned Parenthood of America v. Leavitt, and a third lawsuit in federal district court, where they are re-filing the stayed motions on all three suits. The third suit, Connecticut v. United States, was initiated by several state attorneys general, including Connecticut’s Richard Blumenthal and Massachusetts’ Martha Coakley, to tear down existing federal conscience protections. The other two suits, being litigated in part by Planned Parenthood and the American Civil Liberties Union, have been consolidated with the third suit.

ADF and CLS represent the Christian Medical Association, Catholic Medical Association, and American Association of Pro-Life Obstetricians and Gynecologists, all of which desire to intervene in the suits to defend 45 CFR Part 88, the conscience protections rule enacted in 2008 by HHS merely to enforce existing law. ADF and CLS attorneys argue that the lack of adequate conscience protections in President Obama’s health care proposal and his expressed desire to rescind the rule make obvious the need for the organizations to intervene.

“These lawsuits aren’t about ‘choice’ at all; they’re about coercion,” said ADF Legal Counsel Matt Bowman. “For more than three decades, federal law has prohibited federal grant recipients from forcing health care workers to assist in abortions. The arguments of the suits themselves prove the dire need for these protections.”

ADF also sent a letter March 8 urging HHS to take action against New York’s Mt. Sinai Hospital for forcing senior nurse Cathy Cenzon-DeCarlo to participate in a 22-week abortion under threat of her job and license. In July 2009, ADF filed suit on DeCarlo’s behalf against the hospital, claiming it ignored federal laws prohibiting such coercion while receiving hundreds of millions of dollars in federal funding. Mt. Sinai claimed last August that DeCarlo had no right to defend herself in the lawsuit, Cenzon-DeCarlo v. The Mount Sinai Hospital.

ADF is a legal alliance of Christian attorneys and like-minded organizations defending the right of people to freely live out their faith.  Launched in 1994, ADF employs a unique combination of strategy, training, funding, and litigation to protect and preserve religious liberty, the sanctity of life, marriage, and the family.

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