Bioethics Blogs

A Curious Use of the Church Amendment: What’s Good for the Goose Is Good For the Gander?


In 1973, Idaho Senator Frank Church
was instrumental in enacting the first “conscience clause” into federal law. It
was an immediate response to the United States Supreme Court’s decision in Roe
v. Wade.
Under the law, “public officials may not require individuals or entities that
receive federal funds to perform abortions or make facilities or personnel
available for such procedures” if “it would be contrary to the [individual or
entity’s] religious beliefs or moral convictions.” Further, the statute
prohibits entities “from engaging in employment discrimination against doctors
or other medical personnel who either perform abortion or sterilization
procedures or who refuse to perform such procedures on moral or religious
grounds.” The amendment is often called the Church Amendment after its sponsor.



            On May 2,
2016, an article by Erik Ekholm appeared in the New York Times titled “Doctor
Warned to Be Silent on Abortions, Files Civil Rights Complaint
The story tells about the efforts of Dr. Diane J. Horvath-Cosper, a fully
trained obstetrician-gynecologist and currently a family planning fellow at
MedStar Washington Medical Center, to speak out about the availability of
abortion services in an attempt counter those who wish to stigmatize and
restrict abortion services.


            The chain
of events that have evolved began last October when Dr. Horvath-Cosper penned
an article for the Washington Post describing the fears that abortion providers
have because of threats against abortion clinics and providers.
Just a few days after the Washington Post piece appeared, Dr. Horvath-Cosper
was told to cease her public advocacy for the availability of abortion services
and clear any future requests to speak or write publically on the topic with
the hospital’s public affairs office.

The views, opinions and positions expressed by these authors and blogs are theirs and do not necessarily represent that of the Bioethics Research Library and Kennedy Institute of Ethics or Georgetown University.