A campaign group in America is attempting to force medical professionals, including Roman Catholic doctors and nurses, to go against their consciences and perform abortions.
But a US organisation which battles for religious liberty says it will fight such an idea, and sue the US Government if it allows any such action to go ahead.
In a letter last month The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) called on the US Department of Health and Human Services (HSS) to force religiously affiliated hospitals to carry out abortions against the conscientious objections of their doctors and nurses.
But the Becket Fund for Religious Liberty, which has supported people from a number of faiths in religious liberty disputes, says such a move would “constitute a large step backwards for religious freedom and would turn this nation’s foundational commitment to conscience rights on its head”.
In a letter the Becket Fund said the ACLU had misinterpreted a piece of legislation on emergency medical treatment warning it had “no business radically re-defining the meaning of ’emergency health care'”.
The letter also said that the ACLU had “no business demanding that religious doctors and nurses violate their faith by performing a procedure they believe is tantamount to murder”.
“Forcing religious hospitals to perform abortions not only undermines this nation’s integral commitment to conscience rights, it violates the numerous federal laws that recognise and protect those rights”, the letter commented.
And the Becket Fund said the health system in the USA would suffer if religious hospital workers were forced to go against their conscience.
The organisation said it would, for no charge, represent any hospital or staff member that was affected by such a move and sue the HSS department if it tried to force medical staff to violate their conscientious objections and perform an abortion.
The ACLU’s letter had quoted stories of hospitals that refused to carry out emergency abortions on religious grounds saying they are violating the Emergency Medical Treatment and Active Labor Act and the Conditions of Participation of Medicare and Medicaid.
A hospital found in violation of this legislation could lose its Medicare/Medicaid funding, which is, reportedly, usually its main source of income.
Soon after becoming President, Barack Obama’s administration said it would overturn measures President Bush had set in place to enforce the legal right of conscience of medical staff and medical organisations.
Last year a Roman Catholic nurse in New York was forced to assist with a late-term abortion.
Hospital officials told Catherina Cenzon-DeCarlo she must help with the termination of a 22-week pregnancy despite having been aware of her religious objection to abortion since 2004.