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Attack on pro-life conscience protections ‘a form of totalitarianism,’ doctor warns

Catholic News Agency

Newfoundland, Canada, Apr 6, 2009 / 07:31 pm (CNA).- The executive director of an international organization of obstetricians and gynecologists has expressed “deep concern” regarding the Obama Administration’s proposed canceling of conscience protections for pro-life doctors and medical professionals. He warned the changes would further devalue human life, characterizing them as “a form of totalitarianism.” Dr. Robert L. Walley, MaterCare executive director, in an April 6 letter said conscientious objection has “long been a tenet of civilized societies and it is now proposed that this right be denied by the rescinding protection of doctors.”

“By interfering in the freedom to practice according to conscience, the principles of autonomy of the physician and the rights of mothers will be removed,” he said, criticizing proposed changes as “an attack on an inalienable right.”

Under President Barack Obama, the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) has announced a review of conscience protection rules enacted under President George W. Bush. When the regulations were implemented, they were said to be designed to help enforce existing federal law.

“To force doctors to perform procedures they believe to be unethical, immoral and clearly harmful to mother and unborn child and to threaten their right to practice if they should refuse, is a form of totalitarianism and amounts to discrimination and persecution,” continued Dr. Walley, an emeritus Professor of Obstetrics and Gynaecology at Memorial University of Newfoundland.

“Ob/gyns have long understood that they care for two patients,” he wrote, quoting the 16th Edition of Williams Obstetrics: “Happily we live and work in an era in which the fetus is established as our second patient with many rights and privileges comparable to those previously achieved only after birth.”

Technological advances have allowed doctors to diagnose and treat the unborn child as the “second patient” from the time of conception, he noted.

However, he said that changes in legislation have helped make abortion the “basis” on which maternal health care has provided. This Dr. Walley called a “profound change” of focus.

“The humanity and value of the unborn has been significantly reduced. The result has been no less than the killing of countless millions of unborn human beings all in the name of the women’s so called right to choose.”

The medical precept “first do no harm,” in Dr. Walley’s view, acknowledges that human acts with good intentions may have unintended consequences.

“Clearly abortion does violence by destroying the unborn and by the immediate and long term detrimental consequences to the physical and mental health of pregnant women and for their dignity,” he wrote.

“It is accepted by all governments, professions and religious faiths that it is unethical for doctors to co-operate with capital punishment by giving the lethal injection, or to use their surgical skills for judicial amputations. The so called freedom to choose that one group of women has supposedly gained through the introduction of abortion will now be lost by all women as a consequence of their inability to consult an obstetrician whose practice is based on respect for life and on hope from its very beginning. It will be bought at the expense of a once noble profession.”