The official student newspaper of University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire since 1923.

The Spectator

The official student newspaper of University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire since 1923.

The Spectator

The official student newspaper of University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire since 1923.

The Spectator

Rallying to protect doctors’ conscience

David Taintor

At least one area physician would switch practices or leave medicine completely if required to perform an abortion against his conscience.

But Dr. Dave Usher, a family physician at Luther Midelfort, said he doesn’t think it would come to that.

Campus Sodexho employee and Blugold alumna Karen Trinko organized a protest Friday evening against President Barack Obama’s possible repeal of the conscience rule former President George W. Bush established not long before leaving office. The rule provides protection to health care workers who decline to perform services they disagree with morally, such as abortion or providing contraceptives.

“Don’t let anyone tell you this is a small deal. Every life issue matters,” Usher told the crowd. “We can’t expect any other country in the world to respect life if we don’t.”

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Usher, Trinko and a group of more than 50 others gathered at the corner of State Street and Garfield Avenue, some taking turns standing on top of a grassy mound to share their viewpoints. About half held up signs to passing traffic, inducing the occasional vehicle to honk or cheering passengers to wave from the windows.

Usher said abortion creates a dangerous precedent for others to prioritize convenience and self-gratification over another life, which could eventually lead to a slippery slope to physician-assisted suicide.

“If you can devalue life in any setting and accept that,” Usher said, “that will eventually erode us from the inside out.”

Usher said he has stopped performing vasectomies and has refused to refer women to another doctor who would perform an abortion, on the principle of his faith.

Kathleen Scharlau of Elk Mound encouraged everyone at the protest to become more active and vocal on behalf of physician rights, and the overall right to life.

“If we give these (rights) up, or let our president take them away, it is definitely a step backward,” Scharlau said.

Connecticut Attorney General Richard Blumenthal sued the Bush administration in January for enacting the conscience rule, which he said undermines Connecticut’s contraception laws and state sovereignty, jeopardizes federal public health money and violates women’s rights, according to a Jan. 15 press release from Blumenthal’s office.

“Individual beliefs should be respected, but should not determine whether vital health care is available,” Blumenthal said in the release. “Empowering any random individual on duty to deny critical health care – on a whim or wish – is arbitrary, unfair and illegal. The rule decimates professional accountability.”

Six other states (California, Illinois, Massachusetts, New Jersey, Oregon and Rhode Island) joined the lawsuit.

Obama is accepting public input until April 9 before making a decision, according to a March 26 article in The Christian Science Monitor.

More than anything, Trinko said she hoped the protest next to such a high-traffic street brought more awareness to an issue she wishes more people knew about.

“To go against your conscience is something that affects you,” she said. “We should never force someone against their conscience to do something.”

Obama rescinded on Jan. 23 the controversial Mexico City Policy that prohibits federally funded nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) from using those funds to provide “advice, counseling, or information regarding abortion, or lobbying a foreign government to legalize or make abortion available” abroad, according to a White House memo. Obama also cut Medicaid funding from the stimulus plan that would have expanded access to contraceptives, according to a Jan. 27 White House press briefing.

A representative from the Eau Claire County Health Department declined to comment.

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Rallying to protect doctors’ conscience