Bishops Welcome Inclusion Of Conscience Provisions In House Appropriations Bill

July 18, 2012 By Public Affairs Office

WASHINGTON— The House AppropriationsSubcommittee on Labor/HHS "took a first, urgently needed step toward upholdingrights of conscience and religious freedom in our health care system," by includingtwo key provisions in its appropriations bill for Fiscal Year 2013, accordingto the chairman of the Committee on Pro-Life Activities for the U.S. Conferenceof Catholic Bishops (USCCB).

CardinalDaniel DiNardo of Galveston-Houston welcomed the inclusion of the AbortionNon-Discrimination Act (ANDA, HR 361) and the policy of the Respect for Rightsof Conscience Act (HR 1179) in the appropriations bill, July 18, saying it will"strengthen federal protections for health care providers who decline to takepart in abortions, and will ensure that the Affordable Care Act allowsAmericans to purchase health coverage without being forced to abandon theirdeeply held religious and moral convictions on matters such as abortion andsterilization."  

CardinalDiNardo expressed gratitude to subcommittee chairman Representative DennyRehberg (R-MT) for his leadership in sponsoring the conscience provisions whenhe introduced this bill, adding, "The Catholic community and many othersconcerned about religious freedom will work hard to ensure that theseprotections are enacted into law."TheLabor/HHS bill must be approved by the full House Appropriations Committee,then the House of Representatives, before it can be sent to the Senate forfurther action.

In aJuly 17 letter, Cardinal DiNardo had urged the subcommittee to include bothprovisions in the appropriations bill. ANDA, he wrote, would codify theHyde/Weldon amendment, a longstanding part of this appropriations bill that preventsgovernment discrimination against health care providers who declineparticipation in abortion.

"Instances of discrimination against pro-life health careproviders continue to emerge, and some states implementing the Affordable CareAct have begun to claim that they can force allprivate health plans on their exchanges to cover elective abortion as an'essential health benefit,'" Cardinal DiNardo wrote. "By closing loopholes andproviding victims of discrimination with a 'private right of action' to defendtheir rights in court, Sec. 538 will provide urgently needed relief."

CardinalDiNardo said the Respect for Rights of Conscience Act, which is sponsored by224 House members and supported by nearly half the Senate, should beincorporated into the bill to counter "the most direct federal threat toreligious freedom in recent memory" – the HHS mandate for all private healthplans, even those sponsored by most religious organizations, to include sterilizationand contraceptives, including drugs that can cause an early abortion. He addedthat this provision leaves in place all existing legal protections againstdiscriminatory withholding of health care, only allowing "an opt-out on moralor religious grounds from the new benefits mandates to be created for the firsttime by the Affordable Care Act itself."

The fulltext of Cardinal DiNardo's letter is available online:


Keywords: conscience protection, House Subcommiteeon Labor/HHS, Cardinal Daniel DiNardo, abortion, Pro-Life Activities, USCCB,U.S. bishops, health care reform, ANDA, Respect for Rights of Conscience Act,Abortion Non-Discrimination Act

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