WASHINGTON—The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) joined twenty-five other major pro-life, religious, and health care organizations on April 19 urging the U.S. House of Representatives to pass the Conscience Protection Act of 2016 (H.R. 4828). Signatories include ten medical groups representing tens of thousands of health care professionals who object to abortion and are seeking legal protection to serve their patients in good conscience.
“Federal laws protecting conscientious objection to abortion have been approved for decades by Congresses and Presidents of both parties. Even many ‘pro-choice’ Americans realize that the logic of their position requires them to respect a choice not to be involved in abortion,” they wrote. “Yet it is increasingly clear that the current laws offer far less protection in practice than in theory.”
The Conscience Protection Act (H.R. 4828), introduced on March 22 by Reps. John Fleming, M.D. (R-LA) and Vicky Hartzler (R-MO), addresses several “loopholes” in current federal laws that have allowed violations of conscience rights to continue. The letter cites a recent California mandate for almost all health plans in the state to pay for elective abortions, and the government’s failure to vindicate the rights of New York nurse Cathy DeCarlo after 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 of Congress” but “would be an enormous step forward in assuring Americans who serve the sick and needy that they can do so without being forced by government to violate their most deeply held convictions on respect for innocent human life.”