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Catholic leaders urge Congress to preserve 'conscience-protection' language in legislation

.- Three Catholic leaders, including Catholic medical doctors and a USCCB official, are urging Congress to maintain “conscience-protection” language in current legislation, which would will allow Catholic health care facilities to continue refraining from providing abortions.

The full House will soon take up the Labor/HHS appropriations bill for the upcoming fiscal year and these Catholic leaders fear that there may be an effort to strike the conscience-protection language that is now part of that bill’s Hyde Amendment on abortion funding.

“We urge you to oppose any effort to strike it,” they said in the letter. “This additional language is urgently needed to counteract a nationwide effort to attack the conscience rights of religious and other health care providers.”

As examples of the need for such protection language, the Catholic leaders cited hospitals in Alaska, New Jersey, and New Mexico, which were discriminated against because of their pro-life policies.

“An Alaska court forced a community hospital to provide elective late-term abortions, contrary to its policy and the sentiment of the community,” read the letter.

“In New Jersey, abortion advocacy groups even urged the state of New Jersey to require a Catholic health system to build an abortion clinic on its premises, to serve what they see as a right of ‘access’ to abortion.

“This year, the State of New Mexico refused to approve a hospital lease because the community-owned hospital (following the same policy as over 80 percent of hospitals in the United States) declined to perform elective abortions,” they said.

In the Alaska case, the Catholic leaders pointed out that the court “partly premised its decision on the argument that because the hospital received federal funds (Medicare and Medicaid), it had become a ‘quasi-public’ actor with an obligation to further what the court saw as government’s goal of advancing abortion.”

The letter was delivered to House members yesterday. It is signed by Msgr. William P. Fay, general secretary of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops; Fr. Michael D. Place, president and CEO of the Catholic Health Association of the United States; and Dr. John D. Lane, president of the Catholic Medical Association.

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