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Th e WaPo looks at conscience clause proposals across the land:

The swell of propositions is raising alarm among advocates for abortion rights, family planning, AIDS prevention, the right to die, gays and lesbians, and others who see the push as the latest manifestation of the growing political power of social conservatives.

"This is a very significant threat to patients’ rights in the United States," said Lois Uttley of the MergerWatch project, who is helping organize a conference in New York to plot a counterstrategy. "We need to protect the patient’s right to use their own religious or ethical values to make medical decisions."

Both sides agree that the struggle between personal beliefs and professional medical responsibilities is likely to escalate as more states consider approving physician-assisted suicide, as embryonic stem cell research speeds forward and as other advances open more ethical fault lines.

"We are moving into a brave new world of cloning, cyborgs, sex selection, genetic testing of embryos," Stevens said. "The list of difficult ethical issues involving nurses, physicians, research scientists, pharmacists and other health care workers is just continuing to increase."

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