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By Deirdre A. McQuade
No one should ever be forced to participate in an abortion against his or her will. Yet that's exactly what happened to Catherine "Cathy" Cenzon-DeCarlo, RN, whose nursing license and very livelihood were threatened if she didn't assist at an elective late-term abortion. Medical personnel need stronger conscience protections in federal law so this will never happen again.
Cathy was an operating room nurse at a major New York City hospital in 2009, when she was forced to participate in a 22-week abortion against her clearly stated advance objections. Cathy has suffered deep trauma from witnessing the bloody dismemberment of the unborn child and accounting for all his or her tiny body parts afterwards. She says it was like "a horror film unfolding."
Cathy tells her powerful story in our YouTube video: "Stand with Cathy for Conscience Rights!" (goo.gl/0pYRpX). Watch and share it with friends, colleagues, and family members. If you're on Facebook, view it on the bishops' People of Life page and share it from there.
Cathy bravely sued the hospital, which had said that she and other nurses could be forced into this situation again. But while her employer's coercion was illegal, she had no recourse in court and her case was dismissed. Since then, many other nurses and medical staff have told her that she's not alone. Contrary to their medical oath to "do no harm," they, too, have been coerced into destroying life.
How can these things happen, since there are laws on the books to protect conscientious objection to abortion? The fact is, current federal laws have loopholes and legal weaknesses that opponents of conscience rights have learned to exploit. Most importantly, none of them clearly includes a "private right of action" to allow victims of discrimination to defend their rights in court.
But a solution is available, and we should be part of it. Congress has long been considering a remedy called the Abortion Non-Discrimination Act (ANDA) to close these loopholes and provide that essential private right of action. This month, Congress needs to pass a law funding government programs in 2016 – and this urgently-needed reform should be part of that law. So we must speak up now.
Stand in solidarity with Cathy and all medical professionals who so urgently need their rights protected. The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops is working hard to see ANDA over the finish line with the help of our partner organization, the National Committee for a Human Life Amendment (NCHLA). They've made it easy to urge Congress to support this modest but essential law. Simply visit their action center to send a personalized message to your elected representatives and invite others to do the same. It only takes a few minutes! Finally, help spread the word on Twitter by joining the #StandWithCathy conversation @USCCBProLife and @NCHLA.
To learn more about the bishops' advocacy on conscience rights, visit www.usccb.org/conscience. Thank you for standing with Cathy today. Together we'll make a difference!
Deirdre A. McQuade is Assistant Director of Pro-Life Communications at the Secretariat of Pro-Life Activities, U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops.
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