Catholic News Agency
WASHINGTON, D.C. Objectors to abortion need stronger conscience protections in federal law, the U.S. bishops have said in a letter supporting a bill being considered by Congress.
“While existing federal laws already protect conscientious objection to abortion in theory, this protection has not proved effective in practice,” the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops said.
They said the proposed Conscience Protection Act of 2017 is essential to protect health care providers’ fundamental rights and ensure that they are not “forced by government to help destroy innocent unborn children.” . . . [Full text]
U.S. bishops have previously asked Congress to pass the Conscience Protection Act.
National Catholic Register
WASHINGTON — A bill that would protect health care providers’ freedom to opt out of abortion mandates they find objectionable has once again been introduced in Congress.
“This bill is needed to give health care providers the right to provide medical care without violating their deeply held beliefs,” Sen. James Lankford, sponsor of the bill in the Senate, stated on Friday.
“Americans have very different views about abortion, but we should not force anyone to participate in it or provide coverage,” he added.
The Conscience Protection Act would protect health care providers from federal, state and local abortion mandates if they conscientiously object to assisting with abortions. It would also protect religious employers from having to cover elective abortions in their health plans and establishes a “right of action” for all entities if they believe their religious beliefs on the matter are violated. . . [Full text]
US Conference of Catholic Bishops
WASHINGTON—Cardinal Timothy M. Dolan and – as chairmen of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ Committee on Pro-Life Activities and Ad Hoc Committee for Religious Liberty, respectively – wrote to the U.S. House of Representatives, March 31, urging support for the Conscience Protection Act of 2016 (HR 4828).
The Conscience Protection Act, they wrote, is “essential legislation protecting the fundamental rights of health care providers…to ensure that those providing much-needed health care and health coverage can continue to do so without being forced by government to help destroy innocent unborn children.”
HR 4828 has a “modest scope,” they noted. “While existing federal laws already protect conscientious objection to abortion in theory, this protection has not proved effective in practice… The Conscience Protection Act will address the deficiencies that block effective enforcement of existing laws, most notably by establishing a private right of action allowing victims of discrimination to defend their own rights in court.”
Cardinal Dolan and Archbishop Lori recalled the Hippocratic oath’s rejection of abortion in the profession of medicine, indicating that the Act will benefit not only Catholic medical professionals but “the great majority of ob/gyns [who] remain unwilling to perform abortions.”
Finally, they explained that conscience protection facilitates access to life-affirming health care: “When government…mandates involvement in abortion as a condition for being allowed to provide life-affirming health care services, it not only undermines the widely acknowledged civil rights of health care providers but also limits access to good health care for American women and men.”
The full text of their letter is posted at:
For more on the bishops’ promotion of conscience rights, including a recent video about a nurse who was coerced to take part in a late-term abortion, visit:
The Department of Health and Human Services has confirmed a regulation that will require businesses with over 50 employees to provide health insurance for birth control and surgical sterilization, even if they object to doing so for reasons of conscience. The regulations includes exemptions for objecting “religious employers” (largely limited to houses of worship) and objecting religious non-profit organizations. However, the continued demand that objecting business owners be forced to comply and the nature of the exemptions remain unacceptable to many religious organizations. Speaking for the Becket Fund for Religious Liberty, Eric Rassbach, Deputy General Counsel, said:
When it comes to religious liberty, the Department of Health and Human Services is acting like a kid who doesn’t want to eat his lima beans. Our Constitution and laws require them to protect religious exercise, but they really don’t want to, so they are trying every trick in the book to avoid doing so. But we will keep suing until the courts make HHS comply with its obligations. [Becket Fund News Release]
The U.S. House of Representatives Energy and Committee has issued a report accusing the Obama administration and Department of Health and Human Services of “unprecedented abuse” of religious liberty.
There are now 61 civil suits filed against the regulation, with over 200 plaintiffs. [Becket Fund, HHS Information Central]. In one of them, a unanimous decision by the10th Circuit Court of Appeals in Denver has directed a lower court allow a civil suit brought by Hobby Lobby, a chain of arts and crafts stores. The owners of the company object to being forced to provide embryocidal forms of birth control. They are seeking an injunction against the enforcement of the regulation [The Tennessean]. A Largo, Florida, company with the same objections has been granted a preliminary injunction [Tampa Tribune], as has Geneva College, a Christian college in Pennsylvania [NCR].
American Catholic bishops have been adamant that the HHS regulation is unacceptable, once again declaring a “Fortnight for Freedom” from 21 June to 4 July to encourage opposition to it and support for freedom of religion. Timothy Cardinal Dolan, Archbishop of New York, has been one of the leading opponents of the law. The Archdiocese of New York is among the plaintiffs in the lawsuits against the regulation. However, the Archdiocese of New York has, for years, been indirectly paying for health insurance for employees of the Catholic Health Care System that includes coverage for contraception and abortion. The arrangement was approved by Cardinal Dolan’s predecessor, Archbishop John O’Connor, who died in 2000. A spokesman for the Archdiocese stated that the coverage is provided “under protest.” [New York Times]
Daniel Cardinal DiNardo, speaking to a pro-life rally on behalf of the US Conference of Catholic Bishops Committee on Pro-Life Activities, challenged the decision of the Obama administration to force employers to pay for contraceptives and embryocidal drugs and services. At stake, he said, “is the survival of a cornerstone constitutionally protected freedom that ensures respect for conscience and religious liberty.” Cardinal-designate Timothy Dolan, Archbishop of New York and president of the Conference, joined him in denouncing the government’s plans[USCCB News release]. Writing in the Wall Street Journal, Archbishop Dolan asked, “How about some respect for Catholics and others who object to treating pregnancy as a disease?” In a newspaper column, Archbishop Thomas Wenski of Miami, “To force all of us to buy coverage for sterilization and contraceptives, including drugs that induce abortion, is a radical incursion into freedom of conscience.”