The UW Hospitals and Clinics Authority is attacking a budget item passed by the Joint Finance Committee that prohibits UW from paying physicians or surgeons or UW facilities for the performance of an abortion. This week the state legislature will debate the budget, as approved by the Joint Finance Committee, which includes the UW budget item. Wisconsin Right to Life worked closely with key legislators to have this important provision included in the proposed budget.
The following information was sent by Wisconsin Right to Life to state legislators. After reading this, please scroll down to the end to find out what you can do to make sure UW doesn’t circumvent this important issue.
Federal Law Protects Facilities, Students From Abortion Participation
James C. Dechene, Senior Vice President and General Counsel of the University of Wisconsin Hospitals and Clinics is arguing that if the budget motion should become law, UWHCA would not be able to maintain an accredited Ob Residency Training Program. Here is his statement in its entirety
“The Accreditation Council for Graduate Medical Education (ACGME) includes in its requirements for an Obstetrics Residency program to be accredited that the program make available to any resident who elects to receive such training the option to participate in a rotation in family planning, and if requested by the resident, abortion training. These requirements have been in place since at least the mid-1990s, and apply to all Ob residency programs, including a number that are operated by Catholic Teaching Hospitals or Catholic Universities. The way that UWHCA addresses this requirement, analogous to the way that Catholic institutions with Ob residency programs address this requirement, is to provide an option, not provided by the UWHCA, to do a rotation through an outside provider of those training services. No resident is at all required to receive such training, and in fact only a portion of residents elect to have that training. UWHCA respects the conscience of any residents who may elect not to participate in any family planning rotation, or if the resident elects to participate in a family planning rotation, to opt out of any portion of the rotation that may relate to abortion procedures. If UWHCA were prohibited in any fashion from making the option of training in abortion procedures available, it (like any other Ob program, including those operated by Catholic facilities) would not be able to maintain an accredited Ob Residency Training program. In making available the option for residents electing to receive training in abortion procedures, such training does not occur at UWHCA or at Madison Surgery Center. The approach of UWHCA in addressing the ACGME requirements is analogous to what Catholic Ob Resident training programs do to (1) maintain an Ob training program, while (2) not providing themselves the training in abortion procedures.”
UWHCA’s claims are false based on federal law
The federal government and state and local governments that receive federal funds are prohibited from discrimination against health care entities, including residency programs, and individual health care providers that do not provide training in or refer for abortions. These conscience protections were enacted into federal law in1996 with what is known as the Coats-Snowe Amendment, the wording of which follows:
42 U.S.C. §238n. Abortion-related discrimination in governmental activities regarding training and licensing of physicians. The Federal Government, and any State or local government that receives Federal financial assistance, may not subject any health care entity to discrimination on the basis that - (1) the entity refuses to undergo training in the performance of induced abortions, to require or provide such training, to perform such abortions, or to provide referrals for such training or such abortions; (2) the entity refuses to make arrangements for any of the activities specified in paragraph (1); or (3) the entity attends (or attended) a post-graduate physician training program, or any other program of training in the health professions, that does not (or did not) perform induced abortions or require, provide or refer for training in the performance of induced abortions, or make arrangements for the provision of such training.
It is important to note that ACGME’s discriminatory standard, which Mr. Dechene relies solely on to make his case, is the reason that the Coats-Snowe Amendment was created in the first place! On February 14, 1995, the ACGME voted to require every obstetrics and gynecology residency program to provide abortion training for their residents. Prior to this decision, abortion training was optional. However, because some institutions choose not to offer the training and many students choose not to undergo it, pro-abortion advocates sought to make this kind of training mandatory. As David Grimes, MD, stated in a January 19, 1995 speech, “Making abortion training a routine part of any residency…will put abortion back in the mainstream of medicine.” The change in policy was motivated by ideology and not by medical need. Congress reacted by amending the Public Health Service Act (42 U.S.C. 238n) with the Coats-Snowe amendment designated “Establishment of Prohibition Against Abortion-Related Discrimination in Training and Licensing of Physicians,” which was signed into law April 26, 1996 (PL 104-134).
What would happen if ACGME refused accreditation?
If ACGME tried to refuse accreditation, what effect would it have? ACGME has no power to tell the State of Wisconsin who it can issue licensing and status to and who it can train and how it can practice the field of medicine. Wisconsin is a sovereign state with the power to decide how medicine is regulated and whether ACGME has any legitimacy in the state, not vice versa. Federal law backs Wisconsin on this, not ACGME. If ACGME did try to refuse UWHC accreditation on this basis, the refusal could not be used by the State of Wisconsin or by many private employers to discriminate against the UW residency program or its graduates, because of federal and state law.
ACGME’s policy explicitly refrains from requiring the residency program from paying for abortion training, which is all 20.927 says: they can’t USE FUNDS for it. ACGME’s policy as quoted only says the program must
a. give participants experience in “abortion complications” (which in no way requires abortions themselves—this is available in UW’s ER, textbooks, and other things totally separate from being involved in the abortion);
b. must not impede residents from going somewhere else to do abortion training (which 20.927 doesn’t prohibit, as long as UWHC isn’t PAYING a physician or facility for the performance of an abortion.
Impact of Church Amendment and state law
Beyond the Coats-Snowe Amendment, the Church Amendment (42 USC 300a-7) provides even more protections , http://www.law.cornell.edu/uscode/42/usc_sec_42_00000300—a007-.html ), not even a private accrediting agency, and no public or private employer, if it receives Public Health Service Act funds or any biomedical or behavioral research funds would be allowed to discriminate against someone who graduated from a non-abortion residency program such as UW’s on the grounds that they didn’t provide training for abortion. Wisconsin Statute 253.09, Wisconsin’s current conscience provision, would similarly prevent any graduate of the UW residency program from being discriminated against because some organization decided the program is not “accredited”.
It is Wisconsin’s responsibility to follow the law, as established in Coats-Snowe, not the standards established by ACGME. The baseless arguments of UWHCA should be soundly rejected.
The legislature hopes to finish voting on the various budget items this Friday. Please contact your State Senator and your Assembly Representative TODAY. Ask them to support the Grothman/LeMahieu budget provision that prohibits UW from paying UW doctors and facilities to perform abortions. Ask them to reject UW’s baseless arguments that the budget provision would jeopardize the accreditation of their Residency Training Program. To find out who your State Senator and Assembly Representative are and how to contact them, click here.