July 7, 2016
We are writing as chairmen of the U.S. Conference ofCatholic Bishops' Committee on Pro-Life Activities, and Ad Hoc Committee for
Religious Liberty, with serious new reasons to urge your immediate action to
enact the Conscience Protection Act.
The Conscience Protection Act of 2016 was
introduced 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.
As we mentioned in our March letter to you, while
existing federal laws already protect conscientious objection to abortion in
theory, this protection has not proved effective in practice. Since then,
three new developments make the need for immediate action to pass the
Conscience Protection Act even more urgent.
on June 21 the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) declared,
contrary to the plain meaning of current federal law, that California's Department
of Managed Health Care can continue forcing all health plans under its
jurisdiction to cover elective abortions, including late-term abortions.
began requiring health plans to cover abortion in 2014. This action prompted religious employers in
California that offer group health plans to their employees to lodge an
objection with HHS. On June 21, HHS sent
the State and the objecting sponsors a letter stating that HHS refuses to take
any action because the insurance companies have no moral or religious objection
to abortion coverage. For more details
on this decision and its erroneous bases, please see our fact sheet at www.usccb.org/conscience.
Second, the state of New York's Department of Financial
Services has followed California's lead in forcing health care entities to
cover abortions in health plans. The
Department is mandating that all health insurers operating in New York,
effective January 1, 2016, require small group employers—including faith-based
nonprofits and Christian businesses—to cover all kinds of abortions with no
exemption whatsoever. Similar to the
California abortion mandate, even churches and religious organizations could be
required to cover some abortions in violation of their beliefs.
on June 21, Skagit County Superior Court in Washington ruled that public
hospitals in that state must do abortions if they also offer maternity
care. Skagit Regional Health was
referring women to abortion clinics because none of its physicians and nurse
practitioners are willing to do abortions. In its ruling, the court insists
that the district must find a way to provide abortions on site. What's more, a 2013 opinion by Washington's
Attorney General applies this policy even if the public hospital is acquired by
a Catholic healthcare provider.
disturbing new actions to force healthcare providers to participate in the
destruction of human life cry out for an immediate federal remedy. Even those who disagree on the issue of
abortion should be able to respect those who wish not to participate in
abortion. As we continue to bask in the
glow of our Fourth of July celebrations, we strongly urge you to uphold the
rights to life and liberty which our Founding Fathers wisely asserted as most
fundamental to our nation's existence.
enact the Conscience Protection Act now!
Reverend William Lori
USCCB Ad Hoc Committee for Religious Liberty
Michael Cardinal Dolan
of New York Chairman
USCCB Committee on Pro-Life Activities