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US Bishops Urge Congress to Improve Protection of Conscience Regarding Abortion

Cite California’s Move to Mandate Abortion in All Health Plans

Congress should incorporate the protections of the Abortion Non-Discrimination Act (ANDA) into must-pass funding legislation, said the chairmen of two committees of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) in a November 17 letter to Congress.

Cardinal Seán P. O’Malley of Boston and Archbishop William E. Lori of Baltimore cited the California Department of Managed Health Care’s recent move to mandate elective abortions in all health plans under its jurisdiction, with no religious or moral exemption, as one urgent reason for Congress to improve federal laws protecting conscience rights on abortion.

“The crisis in California requires Congress to reaffirm a principle that has long enjoyed broad bipartisan support: Government should not force hospitals, doctors, nurses and other providers to stop offering or covering much-needed legitimate health care because they cannot in conscience participate in destroying a developing human life,” wrote Cardinal O’Malley and Archbishop Lori. They chair the USCCB Committee on Pro-Life Activities and Ad Hoc Committee for Religious Liberty, respectively.

Cardinal O’Malley and Archbishop Lori noted that such rules proposed in California and other states violate the longstanding Weldon amendment, which forbids governmental bodies receiving federal funds from discriminating against those who object to taking part in abortion or abortion coverage. However, that law lacks an effective means of enforcement and has been subject to legal challenges. The bishops support ANDA as an assurance of greater legal protection. Its protections were included in the U.S. House of Representatives’ draft version of the Labor/HHS appropriations bill for Fiscal Year 2013, but that act was ultimately not passed by Congress.

“We strongly urge you to incorporate ANDA into must-pass funding legislation at your earliest possible opportunity,” the bishops concluded. 

Full text of the letter is available online: www.usccb.org/issues-and-action/religious-liberty/conscience-protection/upload/Abortion-Non-Discrimination-Act-O-Malley-Lori-Letter-to-Congress-11-17-2014.pdf

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