By Grazie Pozo Christie for RealClearPolitics
Medics on the front lines of the coronavirus pandemic urgently need reinforcements. For this reason, President Biden's American Rescue Plan proposes enough funds to triple the number of healthcare workers.
However, unless the administration has a clear policy on how to enforce long-standing conscience protection for healthcare providers, it jeopardizes their ability to recruit the talent we need to fight the coronavirus.
Religious health care providers have a long history of providing quality care to people from all walks of life.
Here at home, they were at the forefront of the COVID pandemic, serving vulnerable groups such as the homeless and those infected with HIV. They care for victims of sex trafficking, opioid addiction, and gang violence.
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Abroad, they serve in war zones and refugee clinics, with some even contracting Ebola while treating patients during the outbreak in Liberia.
But President Biden's election of California Attorney General Xavier Becerra to head his administration's health and human services division is a polarizing decision for a president who has promised unity.
Becerra has a long history of hostility towards doctors and nurses whose ingrained religious beliefs force them to forego things like referring patients for abortion or completing scripts for abortion-inducing drugs.
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Becerra has also spearheaded the attack on key federal regulations protecting healthcare professionals from choosing between their careers and their consciences. These regulations only ensure that the longstanding, cross-party protection of conscience in federal law is actually enforced by HHS.
Restricting access to health care by excluding qualified, compassionate providers from medical practice is bad policy for two reasons. First, it's not who we are as a country.
We have always valued religious freedom – from protecting conscientious objectors at the time we were founded and allowing doctors to refuse participation in the death penalty, to respecting health care providers who must avoid engaging in abortion.
Second, it directly undermines our ability to respond effectively to the current health crisis. America needs crowded hospitals, clinics, and doctor's offices to meet the medical needs of households and communities affected by the pandemic.
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Becerra's efforts to overturn tried and tested reasonable conscience safeguards hint at what a world without conscience safeguards might look like – doctors would either have to perform abortions or risk losing their medical license.
Take, for example, Dr. Regina Frost, a gynecologist who cares for patients in Detroit. As a devout Christian, she would be forced out of her job if planned parenting found her way – every gynecologist would have to perform abortions or leave the job.
Dr. Frost spoke boldly about how her beliefs are an integral part of her personality – it's an identity that cannot be separated from her work. It is the driving force behind their desire to improve and save the lives of women and their unborn babies every day.
If she were tasked with performing an abortion on a patient, she would have no choice but to leave the medical profession and the patients who have relied on her care for years.
We know that the failure to provide clear, deliberate protection of conscience makes it difficult to recruit new talent into the medical field.
Rather than divide us and deprive health professionals of the protection Congress has long sought to offer, the Biden government must unite us in this medical crisis by providing workers with everything they need to fight the pandemic.
Becerra's record shows that he is a divider, not a unifier.
Doctors, nurses, and other frontline medical heroes – physically and emotionally exhausted from months of seemingly endless change – deserve to know that their life's work will be valued and respected regardless of their beliefs.
The protection of their right of conscience in their practice is not an abstract matter. The steamroll has a real, tangible impact on the patients who rely on them for quality care.
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In a large, diverse country like ours, there is more than enough room to ensure that everyone receives the care they need without forcing doctors to perform procedures that are inconsistent with their belief and best medical judgment.
America's medical heroes deserve our respect for their courageous service. They shouldn't be punished for their religious beliefs. Nor should American access to health care just suffer from a person's deeply ingrained religious beliefs.
But that is the Becerra success story. We do not need a culture warrior against conscience to lead our nation's health efforts.
Syndicated with permission from RealClearWire.
Dr. Grazie Pozo Christie is a Political Advisor to the Catholic Association.
The opinions expressed by contributors and / or content partners are their own and do not necessarily reflect the views of The Political Insider.