The Church Amendment that a physician is citing in her claims that a hospital restricted her speech on abortion normally is invoked by healthcare providers on the other side of the controversial issue, says John E. Petite, JD, an attorney with the law firm Greensfelder in St. Louis.
Congress enacted the Church Amendment after the U.S. Supreme Court’s 1973 decision in Roe v. Wade, in response to concerns that federal law could be interpreted to require individuals and healthcare delivery systems to provide abortions or sterilizations against their will, he says. The Church Amendment was intended to protect the so-called “conscience rights” of healthcare workers and institutions with respect to those procedures.
“The federal statute prohibits any healthcare entity that receives certain federal funding from requiring a physician or other healthcare personnel to perform an abortion or sterilization procedure contrary to the individual’s religious or moral convictions,” he says. “It also prohibits discrimination in the terms of employment against such individuals who either participate or refuse to participate in those procedures.”
The amendment protects “entities that object to performing or assisting in the performance of abortion or sterilization procedures if doing so would be contrary to the provider’s religious beliefs or moral convictions.” It also extends protections to personnel decisions and prohibits any entity that receives a grant, contract, loan, or loan guarantee under certain statutes from discriminating against any healthcare personnel in employment because the individual performed or refused to perform an abortion, if doing so would be contrary to the individual’s religious beliefs or moral convictions.