Conscience Protection in Health and Human Services

July 20, 2009

William L. Saunders, Michael Fragoso

On August 21, 2008, Secretary of Health and Human Services (HHS) Mike Leavitt proposed regulations seeking to protect the rights of conscience for healthcare professionals. While the regulations themselves are new, conscience protection of medical personnel at the federal level dates back to the time of Roe v. Wade in the form of the Church Amendments. Conscience rights are protected in two additional components of federal law: the Public Health Services Act § 245 (also known as the Coats Amendment) and the Weldon Amendment. The regulations proposed by Secretary Leavitt, entitled “Ensuring that Department of Health and Human Services Funds Do Not Support Coercive or Discriminatory Policies or Practices in Violation of Federal Law” (“the Regulations”), were an eff ort to provide a stronger regulatory context for the existing laws...

Conscience Protection in Health and Human Services