U.S. bishops urge Congress to back protections for doctors opposed to abortion

Printed from: https://newbostonpost.com/2016/04/05/u-s-bishops-urge-congress-to-back-protections-for-doctors-opposed-to-abortion/

(CNSNews.com) – The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) sent a letter to the House of Representatives on Thursday urging them to support the Conscience Protection Act, which aims to “prevent governmental discrimination against providers of health services who decline involvement in abortion.”

Archbishop William Lori of Baltimore and Cardinal Timothy Dolan of New York both sent the joint statement as Chairmen of the USCCB’s Ad Hoc Committee for Religious Liberty and Committee on Pro-Life Activities respectively.

The bishops write that the new bill, introduced by Reps John Fleming (R-La.) and Rep. Vicky Hartzler (R-Mo.), would “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.”

“The need for clarification of federal law cannot be doubted,” they emphasize. “While existing federal laws already protect conscientious objection to abortion in theory, this protection has not proved effective in practice.”

The bishops explain that the avenue for conscientious objection to abortion through a complaint to the Office for Civil Rights at the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) is ineffective because HHS has “allowed valid complaints to languish, sometimes for years, without resolution.”

They also point out that HHS “has discriminated against those who cannot in conscience facilitate abortions, as when it implemented a new ‘strong preference’ for grantees willing to refer human trafficking victims solely to health care providers who favor abortion.”

They added that this “governmental discrimination” is forbidden by the Hyde/Weldon amendment but that state officials “have violated that amendment with impunity and claimed that any effort to enforce it would be subject to legal challenge.”

The bishops believe the new legislation “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.”

“When government instead mandates involvement in abortion as a condition for being allowed to perform life-affirming health care services, it not only undermines the widely acknowledged civil rights of health care providers but also limits access to good healthcare for American women and men,” the bishops write.

The bishops also stress that while Catholic health care providers are at risk from coercive abortion policies, we should “recall that rejection of abortion is an integral part of the Hippocratic oath that for many centuries has helped define medicine as a profession,” noting that the “great majority” of ob/gyns remain “unwilling to perform abortions.”

— Written by Lauretta Brown