"Let's honor the conscience of those who disagree with abortion, and draft a sensible conscience clause, and make sure that all of our health care policies are grounded in clear ethics and sound science, as well as respect for the equality of women."
Sounds straightforward, right?
Actually, the conscience clause is a civil rights law that goes back long before the Bush regulations (which merely placed a stricter burden of proof on the employer).
So if that is the goal of the President, he will have to get congress to revoke the 1973 Church amendment , that forbids forcing physicians and medical facilities from being forced into doing abortions or sterilizations. It also forbids discrimination in hiring such people.
There are also amendments and laws passed in 1997 that go further in protecting medical facilities and personnel, and protected training programs that refused to teach "how to do abortions" from losing their ability to train doctors and nurses.
But you have to understand this is "newspeak".
Newspeak is a word from the book "1984" where words are changed so they don't really mean what they say.
Pregnancy begins at conception, right?
Well, more recently some scientists and ethical leaders have redefined pregnancy as starting with implantation.
Voila, with a little change in vocabulary, the abortifactant "morning after pill" becomes a contraceptive pill.
So it is possible to argue that if a pharmacist refuses to dispense the "morning after pill" to your 17 year old, he might not be covered.
But it goes further than that.
Fellow Chicago writer and supporter of the president, Clarence Page, interprets this phrase as "charging that the Bush rules unfairly reduce access to abortions for women in rural or otherwise underserved areas."
Ah, but the President doesn't have to change the conscience clause to do that. All he has to do is encourage pro abortion doctors to work in underserved rural areas.
But the dirty little secret is that if a pro abortion doctor worked in such rural areas, he would soon lose his other patients, and feel unwelcome at the country club.
And another dirty little secret in medicine is that a lot of doctors who were taught all their lives to think there is nothing wrong with abortion, after seeing an abortion often change their minds and want nothing to do with it once they are out of training.
That;s why there are always bills trying to get nurses or physician assistants to run abortion clinics. As for the "abortion pill", don't think that this is an easy way to get around the messy reality of having to confront that you are taking life: because some of these women will need surgical abortion anyway, because the pill didn't work properly, or they will end up bleeding or infected.
So if Clarance Page is correct, that leaves a new "conscience clause" that will be rewritten to mandate -physicians/nurses/pharmacists much supply all "legal treatments" for their patients if there is no one else around.
This actually is nothing new. Thirty years ago, I looked at a job at a Catholic hospital that was in a long lawsuit because it refused to do tubal ligations, but was the only hospital in the region. The suit essentially said that because it was getting federal money, it was being paid to serve the local people, and should provide all legal medical services.
I ended up working elsewhere, so never did hear what happened.
But the question that no one asks is: What will happen if the doctors/nurses/hospitals/pharmacists refuse to go along? What if even ten percent of them quit?
One last thought: If you think this is only about abortion, you're wrong.
A single judge in Montana "legalized" all sorts of euthanasia in a lawcase, but now the pro death people are complaining that they can't find local doctors to prescribe lethal medicines.
Much of modern medical ethics is about being an "apologist for death", to use the phrase of Nat Hentoff.
Modern medical ethics is able to explain why you are ethically required not to give "futile care" to the handicapped or elderly (because it uses the money better spent on the young and fit),
As for euthanasia,modern medical ethics has rewritten euthanasia as an ethical choice by the patient (not, as often is the case, as a decision under the duress of poorly treated pain or worry about burdening one's family).
All one has to do is remove the "conscience clause", and establish in law that physicians must counsel patients in "all alternatives" (no matter what) and to prescribe all "legal treatments" (despite their personal ethical objections) and you can see where this all is going.