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August 25, 2011 ( – Although abortion is frequently labeled an essential component of women’s health care, a study published this week has thrown new light on the procedure’s actual acceptance level among America’s OB-GYNs.

According to the study published in the Obstetrics and Gynecology journal this week, 97 percent of OB-GYNs have met patients wanting an abortion, but only 14 percent are willing to perform them.

Religious affiliation was a major predictor of abortion compliance: the study found 1 percent of evangelical OB-GYNs were abortionists, while 9 percent of Catholics/Eastern Orthodox and 10 percent of non-evangelical Protestants fell in the same category, according to NPR’s report on the study.

Despite a surge in pro-life medical groups in recent years, most notably Medical Students for Life, the pressure to normalize abortion in the medical community remains high.

Dr. Lorna Cvetkovich, medical director of Sanctity of Life Ministries in Fairfax, Va., told a bioethics conference audience in July that many medical programs in the U.S. pressure students to perform abortions as a part of their medical training.

“Many programs are not open to pro-life candidates,” said Cvetkovitch, who also noted that the issue of conscience rights now looms large on the national scene under the Obama administration.

“We will have the choice to either practice anti-Hippocratic, pro-choice type medicine and keep our jobs – or practice Hippocratic, Catholic, pro-life medicine and lose our jobs,” she said.

Thousands of faith-based doctors protested after President Obama rolled back federal health regulations instituted by President George W. Bush to help pro-life doctors assert their right not to participate in abortions, including by dispensing the abortifacient morning-after pill.

A 2009 poll found that 90 percent of faith-based doctors would leave medicine if forced to give up practicing according to their moral beliefs.

The battle for conscience rights heated up recently with the imposition of the federal health care law’s essential “preventive services” mandate, which requires private health plans to cover all FDA-approved contraceptives without co-pay. Officials representing the U.S. Catholic bishops, which lobbied vigorously to keep contraceptives out of the essential package, expressed outrage at the skimpy conscience protections included in the mandate.

“Health and Human Services must think Catholics and other religious groups are fools,” wrote USCCB Communications Director Sr. Mary Ann Walsh on her official blog August 1.

Pressure to conform stems also from within the medical establishment. The American College of Obstetrics and Gynecology (ACOG), the nation’s leading nonprofit group of OB/GYNs, has reaffirmed that, “although respect for conscience is important, conscientious refusals should be limited if they constitute an imposition of religious or moral beliefs on patients.”