ACLU Urges Congress to Reject Broad Imposition of Religion in Health Care

July 11, 2002 12:00 am

Media Contact
125 Broad Street
18th Floor
New York, NY 10004
United States


WASHINGTON – Citing recent opinion polls that suggest strong opposition in America to the imposition of religion in the provision of health care, the American Civil Liberties Union today urged Congress to reject broad “”refusal clauses”” that allow taxpayer funded medical facilities to endanger women’s health because of religious beliefs.

“”This is not a question of religious freedom,”” said Catherine Weiss, Director of the ACLU’s Reproductive Freedom Project. “”It is a question of whether a religious viewpoint can trump – in a taxpayer funded facility — the physical well-being of someone who doesn’t share that religious perspective.””

Weiss testified this afternoon in the front of the Health Subcommittee, chaired by Rep. Michael Bilrakis (R-FL), of the House Energy and Commerce Committee at a hearing titled “”Protecting the Rights of Conscience of Health Care Providers and Parents’ Right to Know.””

Of particular concern to the ACLU is legislation (HR 4691), sponsored by Chairman Bilrakis and Reps. Richard Armey (R-TX) and Joseph Pitts (R-PA), that would establish a broad exemption for a wide range of health care entities from federal, state and local requirements to provide reproductive health services and referrals for those services.

The bill could allow health care entities that receive federal funds to refuse to comply with federal mandates to provide poor pregnant women with referrals to qualified abortion providers upon request. It would place serious obstacles in the paths of states trying to comply with federal law that mandates Medicaid coverage of abortions in cases of rape, incest or where the pregnancy endangers the woman’s life. And, the bill would also interfere with states’ ability to enforce their own laws concerning abortion.

The ACLU urged Congress to strike the proper balance between religious liberty and reproductive rights. “”We reject the imposition of religious doctrines on those who do not share them, especially at the expense of the public health,”” Weiss testified. “”At the same time, we seek the maximum possible accomodation of an individual’s religious or conscientious objections, so long as patients’ rights are not compromised as a result.””

The ACLU also urged Congress to heed public opinion polls that suggest strong support for the idea that individuals must be allowed to make health care decisions for themselves and vigorous opposition to religious refusals to provide basic health care. A report detailing these findings can be found at: /ReproductiveRights/ReproductiveRights.cfm?ID=10516&c=30.

The ACLU’s testimony can be found at:

Every month, you'll receive regular roundups of the most important civil rights and civil liberties developments. Remember: a well-informed citizenry is the best defense against tyranny.

Learn More About the Issues in This Press Release