WaPo 'News' Article Slams Measure Protecting Conscience of Health Care Workers

A regulation proposed by the Bush administration would deny federal funding to healthcare organizations that do not allow employees to opt out of providing services that violate their moral values (such as performing abortions or dispensing birth control pills, IUDs, and the Plan B emergency contraceptive).

Far from providing a balanced report on the proposal, Washington Post writer Rob Stein builds a case against it, quoting twice as many opponents as supporters and relegating the statements by supporters to the very end of the article.

In his piece, “Workers' Religious Freedom vs. Patients' Rights,” Stein quotes three opponents of the proposal who charge the Bush administration with “politicizing science to advance ideological goals.” 

One National Institutes of Health researcher is quoted as saying that the proposal is, “a redefinition of abortion that does not match any of the current medical definitions.  It's ideologically based and not based on science and could interfere with the development of many new therapies to treat diseases.”

Another opponent, Susan F. Wood, a professor at George Washington University, says that the administration is “manipulating the system by manipulating the definition of the word 'abortion.'. . . It's another example of this administration's disregard for science and medicine in how agencies make decisions.”

Robyn S. Shapiro, bioethicist and lawyer at the Medical College of Wisconsin, adds, “Is this going to result in a kind of blessed censorship of a whole host of areas of medical care and research?”

Stein goes on to raise the specter of dire political and non-abortion-related scientific consequences:  “outside advocates and scientists have voiced growing alarm that the regulation could inhibit research in areas including stem cells, infertility and even such unrelated fields as cancer.”  Other opponents believe the proposal, as Stein writes, “could have additional implications, including justifying discrimination against gays, single women or others seeking health care.”

Stein even quotes one opponent who speculates wildly that pro-lifers might get themselves hired by abortion clinics in order to bar people from receiving so-called “health care.” Jill Morrison of the National Women's Law Center says, “You could imagine a group of people with less than honorable intentions seeking to get hired at a family planning clinic with the specific objective of obstructing access.  Under this regulation, there is little you could do about it.”

At the end of the article, Stein throws in some statements from the other side: 

M. Casey Mattox of the Christian Legal Society's Center for Law and Religious Freedom says that the proposal “would essentially simply require people to comply with laws that they have been required to comply with for decades. . . . That does not mean any organization or state can't keep doing exactly what it's been doing.  It means they have to make room for people who have sincere moral or ethical concerns about doing something.”

Stein also quotes the Family Research Council's David Christensen and Ave Maria School of Law professor Richard S. Myers, who argue that healthcare employees should not be forced to perform acts they find morally abhorrent.

Julia Seward is an intern at the Culture and Media Institute, a division of the Media Research Center.