EWTN News

Polls show majority support in US for medical conscience protections
September 20, 2019
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New poll results show that a large majority of Americans believe that healthcare professionals should not be forced to provide procedures that violate their moral beliefs. 

The results of two polls, released by the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops on Sept. 18, show widespread support for conscience protections in the healthcare industry, and for regulatory changes that take into account new pressures surrounding so-called gender reassignment procedures.

“An overwhelming majority of Americans agree: no healthcare professional should be forced to violate deeply-held beliefs in order to keep a job. The practice of medicine depends on those courageous and generous enough to serve all people — especially the poor and marginalized — with the highest ethical standards,” said a joint statement on the results released by Archbishop Joseph F. Naumann of Kansas City in Kansas, who chairs the USCCB committee on pro-life activities. 

The release was also signed by Bishop Robert J. McManus of Worcester, chair of the committee for religious liberty, Bishop Frank J. Dewane of Venice, chair of the committee on domestic justice, and Bishop James D. Conley of Lincoln, chairman of the subcommittee for the defense of marriage.

“If we exclude people of faith from the medical profession, Americans will suffer, especially those most in need,” the bishops added. In many areas of the country, Catholic or other religiously-affiliated hospitals are the only institutions present to serve a community. 

A total of 83% of all respondents in the Heart+Mind Strategies poll, conducted on behalf of the USCCB, said that it was important to not force healthcare professionals to participate in procedures to which they have moral objections. This total included 86% of women polled and 79% of men. 

The survey polled 1,004 adults over the age of 18 from July 18-21, 2019. The sample size was equally divided between men and women. 

Nearly six out of 10 respondents said that healthcare providers, such as doctors or nurses, should not be required to perform abortions if they are morally opposed to the practice. Only 20% thought it should be legally required for doctors or nurses to perform abortions, and another 22% said they were not sure.

Fifty-nine percent of respondents said that they supported regulations to protect conscience rights, and 21% said they were opposed. An additional 21% said they were not sure if they supported these regulations. 

These numbers were slightly different when the question was modified to specifically ask about doctors opposed to performing “gender reassignment procedures.” This question saw 60% of respondents say they were in favor of regulations to protect the rights of doctors to refuse to perform such procedures with 22% who said they were opposed. Only 18% said they were unsure if they thought doctors should be forced to violate their consciences in these cases. 

The poll also found that over eight out of 10 Americans believe that “having a moral alignment with one’s healthcare professional is important.” This figure rose four points to 85% among women, and fell to 77% among men. 

In May, the Department of Health and Human Services introduced the Protecting Statutory Conscience Rights in Health Care; Delegations of Authority rule, which protects doctors and other medical practitioners who object to procedures like abortion, sterilization, or facilitating euthanasia. The rule mandates that institutions receiving federal money be certified that they comply with more than two dozen laws protecting conscience and religious freedom rights. 

After initially being scheduled to go into effect in July, it has been delayed until the end of November due to legal challenges.