(CNS) — In a bipartisan 245-182 vote, House members July 13 passed the Conscience
Protection Act, which would provide legal protection to doctors, nurses,
hospitals and all health care providers who choose not to provide abortions as
part of their health care practice.
grateful to House Speaker Paul Ryan for bringing the Conscience Protection Act
to a vote, to all the co-sponsors for their leadership, and to those members of
both parties who support the civil right of conscience,” said Cardinal Timothy
M. Dolan of New York and Archbishop William E. Lori of Baltimore in a statement.
cardinal is chairman of the U.S. bishops’ Committee on Pro-Life Activities and
the archbishop heads their Ad Hoc Committee for Religious Liberty.
those who disagree on the life issue should be able to respect the conscience
rights of those who wish not to be involved in supporting abortion,” they said.
measure, also known as H.R. 4828, also provides “much-needed protection for
religious employers,” they said. “In light of disturbing recent developments,
even churches and religious organizations are being required to cover abortions
in violation of their beliefs.”
Dolan and Archbishop Lori urged Congress “to move this vital legislation
forward as part of this year’s must-pass appropriations package.”
4828 was introduced in the House last March. It was introduced in the Senate in
May as S. 2927; it has been referred to the Senate Committee on Health,
Education, Labor and Pensions.
U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops and other supporters of the Conscience
Protection Act say it close several loopholes in current law that they say are
allowing states to mandate abortions be performed or covered by Catholic and
other faith-based hospitals and health care providers.
2014, California began demanding that all health plans under its Department of
Managed Health Care cover elective abortions. The state allows no exemption of
any kind. In a ruling issued June 21 of this year, the U.S. Department of
Health and Human Services said the state can “continue forcing all health
plans under its jurisdiction to cover elective abortions, including late-term
California, New York state is mandating that all health insurers operating in
New York require small-group employers — including faith-based nonprofits and
Christian businesses — to cover all abortions with no exemption.
addition, a trial court in Washington state issued a ruling June 21 that public
hospitals in that state must perform abortions if they also offer maternity
services. Washington’s attorney general says the requirement applies even if a
public hospital is acquired by a Catholic health care provider.
Conscience Protection Act 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,” Cardinal Dolan and
Archbishop Lori said in a July 7 statement.
a March letter to Congress, they said the measure “takes the core policy” of the
federal Weldon Amendment of 2005 “and writes it into permanent law” to protect “those
who decline to perform, pay for, refer for or provide coverage for abortion.”
signers of the letter included the Christian Medical Association and Catholic
Medical Association; the National Council of Catholic Women; the March for Life
Education and Defense Fund; the National Association of Evangelicals; the
Southern Baptist Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission; the Knights of
Columbus; National Right to Life; and several associations of physicians and
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