AUL’s attorneys work aggressively to promote legal protections for healthcare freedom of conscience that affirm the need to for providers to give quality care to patients while maintaining their own autonomy in making ethical choices. Such protections acknowledge that certain demands of patients–particularly for procedures that are life-destructive and not life-saving–must not be blindly accommodated to the detriment of the rights of healthcare providers. Individuals and institutions do not lose their right to follow their moral and religious beliefs once they decide to enter the healthcare profession.
Those who oppose laws protecting freedom of conscience, primarily pro-abortion advocates and groups, typically couch their arguments with references to women’s right to healthcare access (including access to contraception). By doing so, they seek to compel providers to act in violation of their consciences. However, the use of the term “access” is a red herring, because, when a provider makes a conscientious objection, there is nothing to prevent a patient’s going to another (willing) healthcare provider for service.
Protecting freedom of conscience is also necessary to avoid added stress on an already overtaxed healthcare system. Experts project that current shortages of physicians, nurses, and other healthcare professionals will worsen, failing to meet future requirements. The threats of legal action, and other pressures to compel healthcare providers to participate in procedures to which they conscientiously object, would make such an already dangerous shortage disastrous. If the government forces healthcare professionals to choose between conscience and career, we will lose doctors, nurses, and other healthcare professionals who are already in short supply, especially in rural parts of the country. We will also effectively bar competent young men and women, desperately needed, from entering these vital professions. Without a doubt, the health of the nation demands protecting individual freedom of conscience.