The Obama administration has suggested that it will move to “rescind a controversial rule that allows health-care workers to deny abortion counseling or other family-planning services if doing so would violate their moral beliefs.”
The Bush administration argued that the rule was necessary to protect the “freedom of expression and action” of medical professionals who personally object to providing certain procedures. Health care professionals maintained that the new regulation was highly redundant; activists saw the provision as a backdoor effort to restrict access to contraceptives.
But conservatives are now up-in arms about Obama’s decision to review the regulation. In an interview with CNSNews, Sen. Tom Coburn (R-OK), an OBG-YN, suggested that he might engage in civil disobedience if Obama repealed the conscience clause:
“I think a lot of us will go to jail,” Coburn told CNSNews.com when asked what would happen if the administration reverses the policy. “Let’s see them prosecute the first one of us for not doing that.” By that comment, Coburn meant that doctors, himself included, are willing to defy the law before agreeing to perform medical procedures that violate their conscience, a Coburn spokesman clarified.
Coburn’s sacrifice for principle is impressive, but refusing to provide abortions won’t land him in jail or bring him the publicity that often comes with incarceration. Even without the rule, Coburn’s “conscience” will be protected by The Church Amendment of 1976, The Coats Amendment of 1996, and the Hyde/Weldon Conscience Protection Amendment of 2004.
Coburn might have to keep an eye out for other opportunities for incarceration.