Can You Be a Pro-Life Physician?
You all might as well know that I am very pro-life. Without arguing the merits of the position, I want to dispel a common misconception among medical students and physicians, namely that even if a physician is pro-life he must still refer a patient to an abortion providor even if, because of religious or moral principles, he objects to the practice and does not want to become an accomplice to what he considers a crime.
Nothing could be more removed from the truth. Almost all of the states have laws on the books which explicitly protect a physician from legal jeopardy for refusing to take any part in the practice of abortion. This includes referral.
These laws, collectively known as “Conscience Clauses,” are the best kept secret in the medical profession. In fact, when I was a medical student the faculty wanted to discipline me for taking this position. They called me for a meeting and were all set to chastise me severely when I calmly pulled out a copy of the pertinent law and, figuratively speaking, rolled it into a tube and deposited it in that place where the sun doesn’t shine.
Just for good measure I also showed them the law which prohibits abortions or the discussion of abortions at the public hospitals in my state (Louisiana) of which my medical school was one. And then, just to add insult to their injury I produced the official hospital policy which pretty much followed state law.
I have seldom been so right, from a legal point of view, in my entire life.
Now, the AMA and various quasi-official bodies will make a big deal about their “guidelines” and “standards of practice.” The AMA is blatantly pro-abortion. Just keep in mind that the AMA is a lobbying organization and has no power over any physician. Only state and federal legislatures can enact laws and these can only be implemented, as it applies to the practice of medicine, through duly constituted State Medical Boards.
The AMA can rage and howl, can puff themselves up into paroxysms of self-righteous indignation but I ain’t a friggin’ member of their club so I don’t give a rat’s ass. On this matter I am directed by a higher authority. And the law, not to put too fine a point on it, is the law.
Here is the applicable North Carolina law: (Italics mine)
North Carolina General Statutes:
Â§ 14â€‘45.1. When abortion not unlawful.
(a) Notwithstanding any of the provisions of G.S. 14â€‘44 and 14â€‘45, it shall not be unlawful, during the first 20 weeks of a woman’s pregnancy, to advise, procure, or cause a miscarriage or abortion when the procedure is performed by a physician licensed to practice medicine in North Carolina in a hospital or clinic certified by the Department of Health and Human Services to be a suitable facility for the performance of abortions.
(b) Notwithstanding any of the provisions of G.S. 14â€‘44 and 14â€‘45, it shall not be unlawful, after the twentieth week of a woman’s pregnancy, to advise, procure or cause a miscarriage or abortion when the procedure is performed by a physician licensed to practice medicine in North Carolina in a hospital licensed by the Department of Health and Human Services, if there is substantial risk that continuance of the pregnancy would threaten the life or gravely impair the health of the woman.
(c) The Department of Health and Human Services shall prescribe and collect on an annual basis, from hospitals or clinics where abortions are performed, such representative samplings of statistical summary reports concerning the medical and demographic characteristics of the abortions provided for in this section as it shall deem to be in the public interest. Hospitals or clinics where abortions are performed shall be responsible for providing these statistical summary reports to the Department of Health and Human Services. The reports shall be for statistical purposes only and the confidentiality of the patient relationship shall be protected.
(d) The requirements of G.S. 130â€‘43 are not applicable to abortions performed pursuant to this section.
(e) Nothing in this section shall require a physician licensed to practice medicine in North Carolina or any nurse who shall state an objection to abortion on moral, ethical, or religious grounds, to perform or participate in medical procedures which result in an abortion. The refusal of such physician to perform or participate in these medical procedures shall not be a basis for damages for such refusal, or for any disciplinary or any other recriminatory action against such physician.
(f) Nothing in this section shall require a hospital or other health care institution to perform an abortion or to provide abortion services. (1967, c. 367, s. 2; 1971, c. 383, ss. 1, 11/2; 1973, c. 139; c. 476, s. 128; c. 711; 1997â€‘443, s. 11A.118(a).)