Yesterday, a majority of Catholic Senators rejected a conscience protection law proposed by Senator Tom Colburn that would protect health care workers who object to abortions from participating in the procedure.
Conscience protection has become a topic of debate after President Obama announced that he was reviewing the law and could possible eliminate it. Colburn’s amendment states, "To protect the freedom of conscience for patients and the right of health care providers to serve patients without violating their moral and religious convictions."
The amendment was voted down by a margin of 41-56, in which a majority of Catholic Senators voted against the amendment 9-16. The failure to pass this legislation now leaves the door open for the Obama Administration to rescind the law by executive order and force health workers to compromise their moral convictions.
Last month, Cardinal Francis George, Archbishop of Chicago and President of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB), expressed deep concern that removing the conscience rule would be "the first step in moving our country from democracy to despotism."
"No government should come between an individual person and God—that's what America is supposed to be about," he commented. "This is the true common ground for us as Americans."
Rockville Center Bishop William F. Murphy, chairman of the Committee on Domestic Justice and Human Development of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB), also commented on the possibility of conscience laws being revoked saying,"[it] raises a real issue, because the statutes are intended to protect human rights – rights of conscience and rights of freedom of religion," Bishop Murphy said. "So why should everyone be concerned about this? Because if one person's rights can be compromised, everybody's rights can be compromised."
Murphy called on all Catholics to respond together to protect these basic "human rights," "The lay men and women of our churches, of our parishes and dioceses across the country have to be the voices of the Catholic Church today. Their voice is stronger than ours in many instances because they are the constituents, because they vote and because the politicians know they need the votes to be re-elected."
Yet, 16 Catholic Senators still voted against the protection of these "human rights" including: Begich (D-AK), Dodd (D-CT), Kaufman (D-CT), Durbin (D-IL), Harkin (D-IA), Landrieu (D- LA), Collins (R-ME), Mikulski (D-MD), Kerry (D-MA), McCaskill (D-MO), Menendez (D-NJ), Gillibrand (D-NY), Reed (D-RI), Leahy (D-VT), Cantwell (D-WA), Murray (D-WA).
The nine Catholic Senators that voted for the amendment were; Murkowski (R-AK), Martinez (R-FL), Risch (R-ID), Brownback (R-KS), Bunning (R-KY), Vitter (R-LA), Johanns(R-NE), Voinovich (R-OH), and Casey (D-PA).