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Archive of March 2, 2009

Pro-life leaders rebuke ‘propaganda’ surrounding Sebelius appointment

Wichita, Kan., Mar 2, 2009 (CNA) - Critical reaction to Kansas Gov. Kathleen Sebelius’ nomination as Secretary for the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services continued as one Kansas pro-life leader accused her of doing nothing to help the unborn. He also accused her defenders of engaging in “deception” and “propaganda.”

On Saturday evening it was announced that Gov. Sebelius, a Democrat, had accepted the nomination to President Barack Obama’s Cabinet.

Archbishop of Kansas City Joseph Naumann in 2008 met with the governor to discuss her support for abortion. He asked her to refrain from receiving Communion until she makes a worthy confession and publicly repudiates her stand on abortion.

The governor in 2007 hosted late-term abortionist Dr. George Tiller at the governor’s mansion in an event he purchased as part of a fundraising auction sponsored by the Women’s Political Caucus, a pro-abortion “rights” group.

Andrea Lafferty, Executive Director, Traditional Values Coalition, criticized the governor in a statement before her nomination was announced.

“Sebelius has stated that she’s worked to keep abortions rare and safe, but this is false. She has done everything in her power to protect the notorious late-term abortionist George Tiller and Planned Parenthood from prosecution for felony crimes! In 2007, she vetoed a bill requiring explicit medical reasons for a late abortion, vetoed legislation that would have saved the lives of babies who were victims of botched abortions, and she vetoed other pro-life legislation in 2006, 2005 and 2003.”

Lafferty argued Sebelius’ hosting dinner for Tiller showed “incredibly poor judgment.”

“No political group should be able to use a taxpayer-owned Governor’s residence as the hook for any organization’s fundraising,” she said.

Tom McClusky, Senior Vice President, Family Research Council, also writing before the announcement of Sebelius’ nomination, characterized the governor as a “close ally of abortionists” and said her record “leaves no doubt she will be a strong advocate for abortion disguised as ‘health care’.”

“While a state representative, Mrs. Sebelius fought continually against parental notification, abortion waiting periods, and informed consent. As governor she twice vetoed abortion clinic regulation legislation and also a bill seeking to curb late-term abortions.”

McClusky said a Sebelius appointment would be an open declaration of “war upon the millions of Americans who support life.”

The group Catholics United has defended Sebelius’ nomination.

"Gov. Sebelius is a proven and tireless advocate for children's health care, education, adoption, and support for pregnant women, all components of a public policy agenda intended to benefit the common good. Under her leadership, the state of Kansas has witnessed sharp declines in both abortions and teen pregnancy," said Chris Korzen, executive director of Catholics United, according to The Hill.

A Sunday statement from Catholics United presented 25 Catholic leaders, scholars and theologians who said they supported Sebelius’ nomination “as Catholics.”

According to Catholics United, signers of the statement included Ambassador Elizabeth Frawley Bagley, former ambassador to Portugal; Nicholas Cafardi, the former dean of the Duquesne University Law School; Fr. Thomas Reese, SJ, former editor of America magazine; Prof. Doug Kmiec of Pepperdine University’s School of Law; Dr. Patrick Whelan, President of Catholic Democrats; and Margaret O’Brien Steinfels, former editor of Commonweal magazine and co-director of Fordham University 's Center on Religion and Culture.

“Governor Sebelius is a woman of deep faith with a proud family history of public service,” the statement said.

“Kathleen Sebelius has made clear that she agrees with church teaching that abortion is wrong and has lived and acted according to that belief,” the statement claimed.

It did not explicitly mention Archbishop Naumann’s criticisms of the governor, referring to “disagreements over public policy with leaders in her Church.”

The statement praised the governor’s support for funding services for pregnant women and abortion alternatives, her support of a law including unborn children as murder victims, and her support for an adoption tax credit.

It also credited Gov. Sebelius’ efforts for causing a decline in the abortion rate.

However, Kansans for Life State Development Director David Gittrich cast doubt on this defense of Sebelius’ nomination in a Monday phone interview with CNA.

“It’s a disappointment that the person who is probably the most pro-abortion person in the U.S. is now going to be in charge of Health and Human Services,” he said.

Decrying a situation where the person in charge of health care “believes that killing is health care,” he argued “anybody who thinks that killing is a solution to health care problems should never be running health care.”

Responding to Catholics United’s defense of Sebelius, Gittrich said:

“They shouldn’t even be using the word Catholic. They’re not associated with anybody in the Catholic Church. No bishop, no diocese would recognize these people as having anything to do with the Roman Catholic Church.

“They’re obviously just a front group from somebody who wants to cover for somebody who supports abortion and make them look like a pro-lifer.”

He accused Sebelius’ defenders of engaging in “deception,” describing Catholics United’s defense of Sebelius as “just propaganda, a bunch of lies.”

According to Gittrich, the governor has “never voted for pro-life legislation, and never supported any restrictions on abortion whatsoever.”

“She introduced something very similar to FOCA [the Freedom of Choice Act], which would have encoded abortion with no restrictions on anything, in Kansas law,” he said.

He attributed Kansas’ decline in abortion to the “significant” increase in crisis pregnancy centers and pro-life education efforts which focus on young people.

The decline in the abortion rate “has nothing to do with the governor,” he claimed. “I can’t give Gov. Sebelius credit for one saved baby.”

“Ask Archbishop Naumann, who disciplined Sebelius. Ask him if she’s doing great things for children.”

CNA also asked Gittrich how Sebelius’ departure from Kansas might affect the pro-life movement in the state.

“She was the leader of the liberal left-wing Democrats. They don’t have anybody to take her place,” he said.

Gittrich said he was disappointed Kansan voters didn’t recognize her “extreme liberal views,” saying the governor was “cunning” in keeping her views from the public.

“I feel sorry for the people in Washington D.C. and the people of our country.

“Politically, it’s a good thing she’s gone. See ya. Don’t let the door hit you on the way out.

“I’d be just as thrilled if George Tiller went to Washington, DC.”

Gittrich told CNA he thought the whole country is in “serious trouble” because of Sebelius’ appointment.

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Diocese of Biloxi ends its wait for a bishop

Vatican City, Mar 2, 2009 (CNA) - The Diocese of Biloxi, Mississippi received word from the Vatican this morning that its almost year-long wait for a bishop is over. Pope Benedict XVI has appointed Bishop Roger Paul Morin, auxiliary of the Archdiocese of New Orleans, as the shepherd of the region’s 67,800 Catholics.

Bishop-elect Morin, who will turn 68 next Saturday, will replace Archbishop Thomas Rodi, who was made the Archbishop of Mobile last April.

Bishop Morin has been active in ministry to the poor since 1967, when he worked in the Archdiocese of New Orleans’ summer Witness program. Following his summer experience, Bishop Morin became the director of The Center, a neighborhood social service organization run by the archdiocese. While he served as the full-time director of The Center, Morin enrolled in the seminary, studying in the evenings and on Saturdays.

On April 15, 1971, Roger Morin was ordained to the priesthood in his home parish in Dracut, Mass. and was then assigned to work at St. Henry’s in New Orleans.

Pope John Paul II appointed Fr. Morin as an auxiliary bishop of New Orleans in 2003.

Archbishop Thomas Rodi, the previous bishop of Biloxi, spoke of the skills and gifts that Bishop Morin will bring to his new flock. "I have known Bishop Morin for years and have consistently been impressed by his dedication and talents. He brings to the Diocese of Biloxi his extensive experience as a priest." I am confident that, with God’s help, he will powerfully proclaim the Word of God, join the people of Mississippi in praising God, and lead in making the love of God visible to the poor through the charitable efforts of the Church," Archbishop Rodi said in a statement.

The Archbishop of Mobile also noted Bishop Morin’s experience in dealing with disasters, a problem that Biloxi is still coping with years after Hurricane Katrina.

"Of particular note to those of us on the Gulf Coast, Bishop Morin is no stranger to the devastation of hurricanes, particularly Katrina," said Archbishop Rodi.

"He has been outstanding in his efforts to rebuild the parishes, schools, and charitable efforts of the Archdiocese of New Orleans. He knows first hand the challenges and difficulties involved in hurricane recovery. Despite these challenges, he has fostered the revival of the Church and the community with faith and perseverance."

In a statement, the bishop-elect explained that "the trials and tribulations of disastrous storms have not weakened my faith but have instead strengthened it. The experience of personal losses has not deprived me of hope because hope has been deepened by the experience of bounteous blessings brought by so many who have offered assistance in a loving and caring manner. With my own experiences of stormy weather and personal losses, I greet with open arms, the opportunity to meet with God’s help, the challenges remaining ahead of us. May God bless us all."

Bishop-elect Morin will be installed as the third Bishop of Biloxi on Monday, April 27th, in Biloxi’s Cathedral of The Nativity of the Blessed Virgin Mary, at 2:00 p.m.  Archbishop Pietro Sambi, Apostolic Nuncio to the U.S., and the Metropolitan Archbishop of Mobile, Thomas J. Rodi, will preside at the ceremony.    

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Catholic Church reports growth in seminarians and members

Vatican City, Mar 2, 2009 (CNA) - This past Saturday the 2009 edition of the “Annuario Pontifico,” or pontifical yearbook, was presented to the Holy Father.  The yearbook confirms an increase in both the number of Catholics around the world and in the number of priests and seminarians in Africa and Asia.

The “Annuario Pontifico” was presented to Pope Benedict by Cardinal Secretary of State Tarcisio Bertone S.D.B. and Archbishop Fernando Filoni, substitute for General Affairs.  The book documents the trends of the Catholic Church around the world in recent years.  

For instance, the book notes that in the past year, the Pope erected one archdiocese and 11 new dioceses. He also appointed 169 new bishops.

The book also notes growth in the Church as a whole.  The number of Catholics in the world increased from around 1.131 million in 2006 to nearly 1.147 million in 2007. The number of bishops also grew from 4,898 in 2006 to 4,946 in 2007.

Additionally, the number of priests increased over the last eight years, from 405,178 in 2000 to 408,024 in 2007, although the density of their distribution differs from continent to continent. While number of priestly vocations is growing in Africa and Asia (by 27.6 percent and 21.2 percent respectively), in America they remain more or less stationary. Europe and Oceania saw a decline in their priestly ranks (6.8 percent and 5.5 percent respectively), the yearbook says.

Another fact the yearbook documents is the increase in the number seminarians, from 115,480 in 2006 to 115,919 in 2007. Here too the different continents show differing trends, with notable increases in Africa and Asia while Europe and America show a drop of 2.1 percent and 1 percent respectively.

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Brazilian bishops pen memorial in support of babies with anencephaly

Brasilia, Brazil, Mar 2, 2009 (CNA) - The Conference of Catholic Bishops of Brazil have sent a letter to Supreme Court Minister Carmen Lucia reaffirming their defense of the lives of babies who suffer from anencephaly. The letter comes in response an announcement from the National Confederation of Health Care Workers, which recently said it supports abortion in such cases.

 

In their letter, the bishops recalled that babies with anencephaly enjoy human dignity from the moment of conception and therefore must be guaranteed the right to life, in accord with the fundamental principles spelled out in Brazil’s Constitution.

 

Biologist Lenise Garcia of the University of Brasilia said during the presentation of the bishops’ letter that it is likely that the Supreme Court would not rule on the legalization of abortion in cases of anencephaly until it decides if Judge Marco Aurelio Mello will be allowed to decide the case.

 

Currently, Brazil’s Attorney General is deciding whether or not a conflict of interest exists for Judge Aurelio Mello because he has publicly expressed his support for abortion. Under Brazilian law abortion is a crime.

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Pro-lifers decry Sebelius nomination as divisive

Washington D.C., Mar 2, 2009 (CNA) -

Reactions against President Obama’s pick of Kathleen Sebelius to serve as the Secretary of Health and Human Services are coming in from pro-life organizations around the country. Many are noting that despite his promises to seek "common ground" on the life issue, Obama is turning a blind eye to the concerns of the pro-life community.

Marjorie Dannenfelser, President of the Susan B. Anthony List, reacted to the news by calling Sebelius’ nomination "further evidence of something gone terribly wrong for those seeking consensus on the abortion issue, especially the President.

"He speaks of finding 'common ground' on abortion, but then he makes a series of decisions that comprise the biggest overreach since the 1973 Supreme Court wiped every legal protection for unborn children off the books in the Roe v. Wade decision and the Doe v. Bolton companion decision."

"There appears to be complete cognitive dissonance in the mind of President Obama on the abortion issue. He seems incapable of comprehending his own words when it comes to abortion and 'common ground," charged Dannenfelser.

She also pointed to President Obama’s cancelation of the Mexico City Policy and his administration’s move to roll back regulations enacted protecting health care providers' right of conscience as other divisive actions.

"The Sebelius nomination is just the latest in a growing line of pro- abortion policy decisions that are not supported by the majority of Americans," she stated.

This is not the first time that Gov. Sebelius has been lambasted for her support for abortion, which she claims to agree with the Church on.

Bill Donohue of the Catholic League pointed out that the Kansas governor has had run-ins with the last three archbishops of Kansas City because of her votes on legislation regulating abortion.

Saying it is "very concerned" about the nomination of Sebelius, the Christian Medical Association (CMA), which represents 15,000 Christian health care workers, highlighted her legislative record on abortion.

"As a State Representative, Kathleen Sebelius voted to weaken or eliminate modest abortion-related measures such as parental notification, reflection periods and informed consent. As Governor, she has opposed or vetoed several abortion-accountability bills, including abortion clinic regulation legislation designed to protect the health and safety of women."

"Such a radically pro-abortion agenda undermines the administration's rhetoric of moderation and bipartisanship and more importantly, the values of most Americans who either strongly oppose abortion or favor reasonable restrictions on abortion," the CMA said.

Other objections to Gov. Sebelius’ nomination include her ties to the notorious late-term abortionist George Tiller, who claims to have performed 60,000 abortions.

In April 2007, Sebelius hosted a governor’s mansion dinner for the late-term abortionist, which he purchased as part of a fundraising event for the governor. Tiller has also raised funds for other politicians in the state.

Currently, Dr. Tiller is the subject of a Kansas Supreme Court case for allegedly violating the state’s laws on late-term abortions.

Dr. Charmaine Yoest, president of Americans United for Life, summarized the reaction of the pro-life community, saying, "Nominating someone with an extremist record on abortion who is also associated with the most notorious abortionist in America to be Secretary of Health and Human Services is offensive.  This is a politically divisive move.  The Senate should reject this polarizing nomination."

As HHS secretary, Sebelius would have jurisdiction over a large swath of responsibilities, including public health, food safety, the administration of the Medicare program for the elderly and the Medicaid program to provide health care for low-income households.

 

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Mexican bishops launch 2009 Charity Campaign

Mexico City, Mexico, Mar 2, 2009 (CNA) - The Bishops’ Conference of Mexico has launched the 2009 Charity Campaign, “The Faces of Poverty,” in all the dioceses of the country to encourage Mexicans to “put charity and justice at the center of the Christian life.”

 

The campaign is being organized by Caritas Mexico and is also intended to “rouse evangelical compassion, the witness of charity and the commitment to justice.” 

 

The bishops said they hope to reach Mexican Catholics at all ecclesial levels and all men and women of good will.

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Sen. Brownback supports Sebelius, draws disapproval

Washington D.C., Mar 2, 2009 (CNA) - Kansas Senators Sam Brownback and Pat Roberts are congratulating Gov. Kathleen Sebelius on being nominated to serve as the next Secretary of Health and Human Services. But their well wishes are not enjoying a good reception with some pro-life activists.

When news of President Obama’s nomination became public on Saturday, the two senators issued a joint statement describing her selection as "an honor."

"Congratulations to Governor Sebelius on being nominated to be the Secretary of Health and Human Services," the Senators said. "It’s an honor for the State of Kansas to have an elected official appointed to the president’s cabinet. We are hopeful Governor Sebelius will be a voice for Kansas and rural America at the Department. We look forward to working with her on issues important to the state including a National Cancer Institute Designation at the University of Kansas Cancer Center."

The statement also mentions that the two senators expect to have "different viewpoints than the Administration on many issues including health care reform" but does not mention abortion.

However, numerous pro-life organizations have roundly condemned Sebelius’ nomination. They note that as a state representative she voted against laws on parental notification, reflection periods and informed consent. As governor, she either opposed or vetoed legislation that would have required abortion clinics to abide by a set of health care standards and a 2006 bill that would have tightened regulations on abortions.

Austin Ruse, president of the Catholic Family and Human Rights Institute (C-FAM), told CNA that he is "deeply disturbed" by Brownback’s message.

"As an early supporter of Senator Sam Brownback for President and as a long-time ally of his in the U.S. social policy fights, I am profoundly disappointed in Senator Brownback's endorsement of the pro-abortion Catholic Governor Sebelius as Secretary of Health and Human Services. She supported partial birth abortions performed on unborn Kansas babies.

"That Senator Brownback is proud of her appointment is deeply disturbing."

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Catholic Church must not let society marginalize it, British cardinal says

Rome, Italy, Mar 2, 2009 (CNA) - The Archbishop Westminster, Cardinal Cormac Murphy-O’Connor is calling on the Church to resist the spread of secularism. At a conference at the Cathedral of Westminster the cardinal said, “the Church in our society has great vitality and a crucial role to play, more importantly even now in this time of recent history.” 

According to the L’Osservatore Romano, the cardinal encouraged the faithful to resist the advance of secularism: “Many of the arguments of secularism aim to confirm the evolution of a self-sufficient humanistic vision. All of this leads to the disappearance of the spirit with an historical perspective that is fundamentally reductionist.”

This manner of looking at man, he said, “is intended to impoverish the understanding of what is the root of the human being” and makes it difficult to defend the human person from being used as an instrument.

Only by “accepting the dignity and ultimate end of man in God—which the Church has always affirmed—can the proper appreciation of human life be embraced,” Cardinal Murphy-O’Connor said. 

He went on to note that the “greatest danger for us is that of allowing ourselves to be convinced by the secular culture that we Catholics are becoming more and more marginalized and that we are in decline. For this reason it is true that we have many challenges to confront and much work to be done.”

The cardinal pointed out that moral and ethical values have been expelled from today’s society, despite the fact that there are many people who are striving to do good.

Cardinal Murphy-O’Connor closed his talk by saying, “in order to be fully human we must always remain open to the good. We need a renewed sensibility to the ethical and moral dimensions of life.  We need to affirm and encourage the good that is in each person, instead of pointing out the negative. An authentic and lasting change will be possible if we first share the joys and hopes of all of humanity.”

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Cardinal Garcia-Gasco warns of ‘information gap’ between rich and poor

Madrid, Spain, Mar 2, 2009 (CNA) - The Apostolic Administrator of Valencia in Spain, Cardinal Agustin Garcia-Gasco, called for solidarity last week in the use of the media saying, “We cannot accentuate the breach between the people who are ‘rich’ in information and the people who are ‘poor’ in information.”

 

In his weekly pastoral letter, the cardinal noted that this divide has been created “by media and distribution structures and policies that lack concern for the true universal and local common good.” He claimed that “to deny or make access to information technology difficult accentuates injustice and inequality.”

 

The misuse of the media was also raised by the cardinal, who cited “trash TV” and “the search for the morbid” as examples. However, these excesses should not lead people to have a negative outlook about the important “social, political and cultural role the media can always play,” he said.

 

Evangelization is also communication, Cardinal Garcia-Gasco explained, saying that “the spread of the truth about human life, the search for God and human transcendence are facts that cannot be silenced by the media.”

 

“The metaphor that each word is a seed enlightens us about the fruits we wish to cultivate in the world.  The seed of Christian love has not ceased bearing fruit for 2,000 years and it falls to each one of us to turn our hearts into fertile ground where it can grow,” the cardinal said.

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New Catholic HHS secretary has history of protecting late-term abortionist

Wichita, Kan., Mar 2, 2009 (CNA) - Though the newly-nominated Secretary of Health and Human Services has spoken about the importance of a "culture of life," she has gone to great lengths to protect a well-known late-term abortion doctor and has continued to support legalized abortion over her 30-year political career.

When Kansas Governor Kathleen Sebelius ran for re-election in 2006, she, along with Kansas Democrats, created a plan to incorporate faith-based messaging to appeal to pro-life voters.

The result was the founding of a Political Action Committee (PAC) called "Democrats for Life of Kansas" and the hosting of a conference on faithful citizenship.

Although Catholics United co-founder James Salt has worked with Gov. Sebelius’ efforts to reach Catholic voters, Salt told CNA in an email that neither of the two initiatives came from his consulting.

"I have neither advised Gov. Sebelius to establish Democrats for Life of Kansas, nor to hold a 'Faithful Citizenship Conference,'" Salt said.

According to files from the state of Kansas, the PAC not only never raised any money, but did not support any pro-life candidates.

Speaking at the 2006 Kansas for Faithful Citizenship conference, Sebelius stressed that her "Catholic faith teaches me that all life is sacred, and personally I believe abortion is wrong.

"If we truly wish to reduce the number of abortions further," she said, "we need to work together to truly promote a culture of life, by helping women and families get the support they need when facing unexpected pregnancies and to continue to reduce the number of abortions. Health care, child care, job opportunities, affordable housing - they are all the building blocks of a culture of life and we can use them to build a future where abortion is extremely rare."

However, her support for legalized abortion and her relationship with late-term abortion doctor, George Tiller, tell a different story.

Tiller, who has boasted that he has performed over 60,000 abortions, is the Medical Director of the facility, Woman’s Health Care Services which states on their website: "We have more experience in late abortion services over 24 weeks than anyone else currently practicing in the Western Hemisphere, Europe and Australia."

In 2007, Bill O’Reilly, reported on his show the O’Reilly Factor that Tiller had been performing "late term abortions without defining the specific medical reasons why."

In Kansas, abortionists must obtain a second opinion from an independent doctor before carrying out a late-term abortion on a viable fetus.

O’Reilly went on to accuse Sebelius of protecting Tiller when, in 2007, she vetoed a bill that would have forced the doctor "to provide a specific medical reason for destroying a viable fetus."

"Now America is a great country," commented O’Reilly, "but this kind of barbaric display in Kansas diminishes our entire nation. Tiller has killed thousands, thousands of late-term fetuses without explanation. And Governor Sebelius is allowing him to continue the slaughter. How the governor sleeps at night is beyond me."

In addition to protecting Tiller’s privacy, Sebelius made headlines last May when it was discovered that she held a reception for Tiller at the governor’s residence and it has been reported that her campaign has accepted donations from Tiller and his political action committees.

Last May, Washington Post columnist, Robert Novak, also noted that there is evidence that Sebelius has been "‘laundering’ abortion industry money for distribution to Kansas Democrats."

He goes on to say that "… Sebelius sits at the apex of a complicated Kansas financing system involving the famous abortion provider George Tiller of Wichita. She controls Bluestem Fund PAC, which distributed money to Kansas Democratic candidates. Tiller, one of the few U.S. doctors still performing late-term abortions, contributed $120,000 in 2006 to the Democratic Governors Association, which has given $200,000 to Bluestem."

Currently, Tiller is accused with violating the state’s late term abortion law by failing to obtain a second opinion before performing a late term abortion. His trial will begin March 16.

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Sen. Coburn says pro-life docs would prefer jail to violating consciences

Washington D.C., Mar 2, 2009 (CNA) - Obstetrician and gynecologist Sen. Tom Coburn (R-Oklahoma) has said that pro-life medical practitioners will “go to jail” rather than violate their conscience if the Obama administration reverses federal conscience protection rules.

In an interview with CNSNews.com on Friday in Washington, D.C., Sen. Coburn was asked what he thought would happen if the administration reverses the policy.

“I think a lot of us will go to jail,” he said. “Let’s see them prosecute the first one of us for not doing that.”

In the final months of the George W. Bush Administration, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Service (HHS) implemented a conscience protection regulation reflecting existing federal protections for healthcare providers’ consciences.

The Bush rule protects healthcare workers at federally funded institutions from being forced to engage in practices that violate their moral or religious beliefs, such as performing or referring for abortions, performing sterilizations, or giving or receiving training in such procedures.

The rule also clarifies that conscience protections also apply to pro-life institutions.

On Friday, the White House’s Office of Management and Budget (OMB) announced that it was reviewing a proposal to modify or lift the HHS conscience protection regulation implemented in the final months of the George W. Bush Administration.

The review is the first step in the rule’s reversal, which would not affect existing federal conscience protections.

Explaining the need for the rule in a December announcement, the HHS said the regulation would increase “awareness of and compliance with” federal law.

The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops has supported the regulation, citing in a Sept. 12 letter the “growing hostility on the part of some professional organizations and advocacy groups to rights of conscience in health care” and describing other “undisguised hostility to conscience rights.”

The Catholic Health Association, which represents Catholic hospitals, and the Christian Medical Association also supported the rule’s implementation.

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