June 3, 2020

78 Members of Congress Urge Second Circuit Court of Appeals to Protect the Conscience Rights of Pro-Life Doctors

Photo Credit: Ilmicrofono Oggiono / Flickr
78 members of Congress filed an amicus brief last month to the Second Circuit Court of Appeals asking the court to allow the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) to put conscience protections in place for health care workers. HHS Enforcement for these protections was blocked by a lower court. Without them, doctors who work at facilities receiving federal funds could be forced to carry out abortions or assisted suicides by their employers or risk losing their jobs.

“To ensure compliance with these federal conscience protections, the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) promulgated the Conscience Rule on May 21, 2019 to interpret and implement existing federal statutes,” the legislators told the court in their amicus brief. They are referring to the Church Amendment, the Coats-Snowe Amendment, and the Weldon Amendment that offer conscience protections. The HHS rule would simply be a method of enforcing those protections.

“For the last fifty years, Congress has been very clear: governmental and private entities cannot receive federal funds and discriminate against health care entities that refuse to perform or assist in the performance of particular procedures,” the amicus brief continued. “HHS should be allowed to enforce this statutory prerogative.”

On November 6, 2019, Judge Paul A. Engelmayer, nominated by President Barack Obama to the United States District Court for the Southern District of New York, vacated the HHS rule protecting the consciences of health care workers before it became effective.

United States District Court Judge for the Southern District of New York Paul A. Engelmayer vacated the HHS rule on Nov. 6, 2019. After appealing the decision, Regina Frost, M.D., a Michigan-based OB/GYN, the Christian Medical & Dental Associations, and the HHS filed their opening briefs to the Second Circuit Court of Appeals on April 27.