Friday, November 30, 2018

For Doctors Who Want To Provide Abortions, Employment Contracts Often Tie Their Hands

NPR (Nov. 26, 2018): For Doctors Who Want To Provide Abortions, Employment Contracts Often Tie Their Hands, by Mara Gordon:

As the federal government has recently worked to beef up protections for doctors who choose not to provide abortions because of their religious beliefs, doctors who would like to provide abortions are often prohibited from doing so because of the religious beliefs of their employers.

Since the 1970s, "conscience protections" have protected clinicians who do not want to provide or assist in abortions keep their jobs.  Religious hospitals can also refuse to provide abortion or sterilization procedures without risking government funding.   However, there are few protections for doctors who would like to provide abortions from having their employers' religious beliefs against abortions being imposed on them.

Religious hospitals often prohibit their doctors from performing abortions — even if they do so at unaffiliated clinics, says Noel León, a lawyer with the National Women's Law Center. León was hired about two years ago to help physicians who want to be abortion providers. They have little in the way of legal protection, she says.

"Institutions are using the institutional religious and moral beliefs to interfere with employees' religious and moral beliefs," León says.

This has become a serious issue as hospital mergers have increased Catholic-affiliated health care. When doctors who work for religious hospitals are forced to sign contracts to "uphold religious values," it makes it more difficult for abortion clinics, which often rely on doctors working part-time, to operate. According to a 2016 MergerWatch study, 14.5% of acute hospitals are Catholic-owned or affiliated.

León has worked with at least 30 physicians and nurse practitioners from 20 different states who faced problems when they told their employers, or potential employers, that they planned to provide abortions.

"They're being told, 'We can't provide the care we went into medicine to provide,' " León says. "We shouldn't be putting providers in the position of caring for their patients or keeping their jobs."

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