WASHINGTON—The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB)joined thirty-two other major pro-life, religious, and health careorganizations on September 6 urging the U.S. House of Representatives andSenate to pass the Conscience Protection Act of 2017 (H.R. 644/S. 301).Signatories include numerous medical groups representing tens of thousands ofhealth care professionals who object to abortion and are seeking legalprotection to serve their patients in good conscience.
"Federal laws protecting conscientious objection to abortionhave been approved for decades by Congresses and Presidents of both parties.Even many 'pro-choice' Americans realize that the logic of their positionrequires them to respect a choice not to be involved in abortion," they wrote."Yet, with violations of federal conscience laws occurring in California, NewYork, Washington, Alaska, Illinois, and most recently Oregon, it isincreasingly clear that the current laws offer far less protection in practicethan in theory."
The Conscience Protection Act (H.R. 644/S. 301), introducedin the House on January 24 by Reps. Diane Black (R-TN) and Jeff Fortenberry(R-NE), and in the Senate on February 3 by Sen. James Lankford (R-OK),addresses several "loopholes" in current federal laws that have allowedviolations of conscience rights to continue. The letter cites a 2014 Californiamandate requiring almost all health plans in the state to pay for electiveabortions in direct violation of the Weldon amendment, and the subsequentfailure of the HHS Office of Civil Rights to enforce Weldon. It also cites thegovernment's failure to vindicate the rights of New York nurse Cathy DeCarloafter she was pressured to assist at a late-term abortion.
The joint letter highlights the modest nature of the bill,explaining that it "would mean almost no change in the substantive policy ofCongress" but "would be an enormous step forward in assuring Americans whoserve the sick and needy that they can do so without being forced by governmentto violate their most deeply held convictions on respect for innocent humanlife."
The full text of their letter to Senate is posted at: www.usccb.org/issues-and-action/religious-liberty/conscience-protection/upload/Senate-Joint-Ltr-Conscience-Protection-Act-2017.pdf;with the concurrent letter to the House of Representatives at: www.usccb.org/issues-and-action/religious-liberty/conscience-protection/upload/Joint-Ltr-Conscience-Protection-Act-2017.pdf.
For more on the bishops'promotion of conscience rights, including a video about a nurse who was coercedto take part in a late-term abortion, visit: www.usccb.org/conscience.
Keywords: U.S. Conference ofCatholic Bishops, USCCB, U.S. House of Representatives, U.S. Senate, Congress, Conscience Protection Act of 2017 (H.R.644, S. 301), abortion, civil rights, consciencerights, conscience protection, conscientious objection, medical profession, OB/GYN, pro-life, integrity, Hippocratic oath.
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