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HHS Secretary Leavitt Praised for Defending Physicians' Conscience Rights
Date:3/19/2008

WASHINGTON, March 19 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- Health and Human Services Secretary Mike Leavitt was praised for defending physicians' conscience rights by Deirdre McQuade, spokesperson on pro-life issues for the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops. She made her comments on March 19 following a public attack on Secretary Leavitt by the Religious Coalition for Reproductive Rights.

The attack was prompted by a March 14 letter from Secretary Leavitt to the American Board of Obstetrics and Gynecology (ABOG), expressing concern about a new ethics opinion from the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG) calling on conscientiously opposed physicians to perform or refer for abortions. Ms. McQuade's statement follows.

"Secretary Leavitt should be commended for defending federal laws protecting the conscience rights of physicians. The new ACOG ethics opinion calling on pro-life OB/GYNs to perform or refer for abortions is in direct conflict with the policy reflected in federal law since 1973. Indeed, just yesterday, a federal judge in California dismissed a challenge to a federal law protecting physicians in government programs from being forced to do abortion referrals.

"If the American Board of Obstetrics and Gynecology relies on the ACOG opinion when deciding whether to grant board certifications, hospitals could find themselves illegally discriminating against perfectly qualified physicians who have been denied certification for ideological reasons. Any HHS Secretary should be concerned about the possibility of federal health care institutions placing themselves in conflict with federal law.

"The Religious Coalition for Reproductive Rights (RCRR), formerly known as the Religious Coalition for Abortion Rights, has nonetheless launched a personal attack on Secretary Leavitt for doing his job. RCRR's March 18 news release accuses the Secretary of displaying a 'narrow view of conscience,' 'disregard' for women,' an
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SOURCE U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops Secretariat forPro-Life
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