- The Washington Times - Wednesday, September 25, 2002

The vast majority of all hospitals public and private do not get involved in abortion. In fact, 86 percent of all hospitals did not perform a single abortion last year.
There is a reason for that. Most health care providers are interested in protecting and saving human life, not taking it. Government shouldn't force them to take part in actions such as performing abortions against their beliefs, morals or religion.
In 1996, Congress enacted legislation ending state and federal discrimination against health care providers that do not perform abortions. In a series of court opinions and rulings, activist judges are flouting the will of Congress and ordering hospitals, not to promote life, but to end it. They are telling doctors and nurses to suspend their most strongly held beliefs and perform a practice so heinous that even progressive hospitals have rejected.
So today, the House of Representatives will consider the Abortion Non-Discrimination Act and right the wrong perpetrated by liberal courts. The bill signals Congress' intent in one simple yet powerful message no health care provider should ever be forced to do something that violates their moral, ethical, or religious beliefs.
While there is deep disagreement in America about whether abortion should be legal, nearly all Americans would agree that no one should be forced to have an abortion or to perform an abortion if they don't want to. That, however, hasn't stopped some on the extreme fringe of this issue from trying to force hospitals to provide abortions anyway.
Valley Hospital in Palmer, Alaska, is one such example. Located about 50 miles east of Anchorage, the hospital's board implemented a policy in 1990 barring abortion procedures except in cases of rape, incest and danger to the life of the mother.
The hospital was sued, and a judge arbitrarily ruled that because Valley Hospital received some government money, it was a "quasi-government entity" and had to provide abortions. The hospital appealed the case to the Alaska Supreme Court, citing a state law that protected its right of conscience. The Supreme Court ruled against the hospital and, in one fell swoop, threw out the state's conscience law.
Congress' conscience guarantees were also overturned in New Jersey. When Rancocas Hospital in Willingboro, N.J., was purchased by Our Lady of Lourdes Healthcare Services, a new policy was instituted against performing abortions. Our Lady of Lourdes, as the name suggests, is a Catholic agency, and the Catholic church believes abortion is wrong.
The American Civil Liberties Union of New Jersey sued. It argued that if Our Lady of Lourdes didn't want to allow abortions in its hospital, it should provide a separate building on the hospital's campus for that purpose. This, obviously, made no sense to the hospital. The ACLU also argued that the hospital was duty-bound to provide abortions because its original mission statement called for "comprehensive" health care services. The ACLU conveniently forgot that when the mission statement was written in 1961, abortion was a felony.
So much is at stake in this bill. Without its passage, the viability and integrity of our country's health care system are in jeopardy. In this age of managed care and skyrocketing health care costs, hospitals are merging in order to survive. If courts demand that pro-abortion policies be a condition of merging as a number already have there will be fewer of these cost-saving partnerships.
Many of these alliances involve denominational hospitals hospitals principally organized to serve the poor and needy. They have been and will continue to be the first victims of court-imposed abortion mandates, for in many cases they cannot practice medicine at all under these conditions. The poor and vulnerable will be the ultimate casualties when these facilities have to close.
It's time to clarify the law once and for all and make sure every doctor, and every hospital has the right to act according to the dictates of their individual beliefs.

Dick Armey, a Texas Republican, is the House majority leader.

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