U.S. Bishops Push Congress to Pass ‘Conscience Protection Act’

A pregnant Albanian woman lies on a bed while doctor looks at the foetus on a monitor as he carries out a sonogram on April 20, 2015 in Tirana. Selective abortions remain a common practise in Albania and several Balkan countries, where an imbalance between boys and girls at birth …
GENT SHKULLAKU/AFP/Getty

The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) is urging Catholics to press U.S. legislators to pass the Conscience Protection Act, which would ensure that health care personnel and others could not be coerced into participating in actions such as abortion that violate their moral conscience.

On Monday, the Catholic bishops sponsored a national congressional call-in day in an attempt to mobilize Catholic citizens to get politically engaged over religious liberty and conscience rights.

In a tweet, the USCCB asked followers to “take a moment to call your representatives and ask that they enact the Conscience Protection Act,” while also providing specific instructions on how to do so.

The Conscience Protection Act (H.R. 644) was introduced in the House of Representatives by Rep. Diane Black (R-Tenn), who is spearheading efforts to add the Conscience Protection Act to the omnibus spending bill this week.

The text of the bill cites Thomas Jefferson as saying that no “provision in our Constitution ought to be dearer to man than that which protects the rights of conscience against the enterprises of the civil authority.”

The Act focuses specifically on the right to participate in or provide material assistance to abortions, stating that no State or local government that receives Federal funding may “penalize, retaliate against, or otherwise discriminate against a health care provider” on the basis that the provider does not “perform, refer for, pay for, or otherwise participate in abortion” or “provide or sponsor abortion coverage.”

In their message to the faithful, the bishops cite a nurse named Fe Vinoya, who found herself in the situation of having to choose between employment and abortion. “I never imagined that the hospital I worked for would force me to choose between taking the life of an unborn child and losing my job,” she said.

These nurses, with the support of the U.S. bishops, “are seeking immediate legislative relief,” the message states.

In a joint statement released on March 6, Cardinal Timothy Dolan, chair of the Bishops’ Committee on Pro-Life Activities, and Archbishop Joseph Kurtz, chair of the Committee for Religious Liberty, said that “fierce attacks on conscience rights regarding abortion cry out for an immediate remedy.”

“Nurses and other health care providers and institutions are being forced to choose between participating in abortions or leaving health care altogether. Churches and pro-life Americans are being forced to provide coverage for elective abortions—including late-term abortions—in their health care plans,” they wrote.

“Opponents and supporters of abortion should be able to agree that no one should be forced to participate in abortion,” they said.

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