Matter of Conscience

This past week, the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops joined 25 other groups in supporting “The Conscience Protection Act of 2016” (H.R. 4828). This proposal was introduced on March 22 by Reps. John Fleming, M.D. (R-LA) and Vicky Hartzler (R-MO) and seeks to respect the conscience rights of health care professionals and facilities.

The state of California, beginning in 2014, insisted that all health plans that fall under the jurisdiction of the state’s Department of Managed Health Care (and this includes even those purchased by churches and other religious organizations) must cover elective abortions for any reason including those that are late-term and even those performed for reasons of “sex selection.”

This California directive violates the consciences of health care personnel who believe that abortion is the taking of an innocent life and therefore cannot participate in such a procedure.

H.R. 4828 recognizes the fact in a clear and concise way that the consciences of many involved in the health care industry can and are being violated. It would protect those who decline to perform, pay for, refer for, or provide coverage for abortion. This will help nurses and other health professionals, threatened with loss of their careers and livelihoods if they do not assist in abortions, whose cases have sometimes languished for years at the HHS Office for Civil Rights.

You might recall the case of Cathy Cenzon-DeCarlo from 2009. She refused to participate in a last-minute summons at Mount Sinai Hospital here in New York to assist in a scheduled, late-term abortion on the basis of her conscience and religious beliefs. Mount Sinai Hospital recognized the violation of Ms. Cenzon-DeCarlo’s rights and actually put into policy for its employees the right to refuse to take part in an abortion.

If the Conscience Protection Act is passed, then two substantial things will occur: first, no major change will occur in congressional policy and many health care workers and organizations will be able to continue to serve the suffering without violating their conscience. Contact your representative to let him or her know your support for this Act.