Bishops ask faithful to flood Congress with calls for Conscience Protection Act

US Capitol dome Credit Dan Thornberg Shutterstock CNA US Capitol dome. | Dan Thornberg/Shutterstock.

The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops has issued a statement asking people to pray, call, and write to their Congressional representatives to urge the inclusion of the Conscience Protection Act in the government's upcoming funding bill.

The statement, issued by Cardinal Timothy Dolan of New York, chair of the conference's pro-life committee, and Archbishop Joseph Kurtz of Louisville, chair of the religious liberty committee, urges Catholics to "flood" their members of Congress in support of the act.

"Increasing and fierce attacks on conscience rights regarding abortion cry out for an immediate remedy," said the archbishops. "Nurses and other health care providers and institutions are being forced to choose between participating in abortions or leaving health care altogether."

While the bishops' conference is encouraging action each day until the bill is enacted, they are especially focusing on Monday, March 12 as a day of action. The funding deadline is March 23.

The Conscience Protection Act would protect physicians and nurses from being forced to engage in procedures that violate their conscience, such as abortion or sterilization.

It would also prevent employers from being forced to cover abortions in their health care plans if the procedure violates their conscience beliefs. Currently, three states--California, Oregon, and New York--require most or all insurance plans to cover abortion.

"Opponents and supporters of abortion should be able to agree that no one should be forced to participate in abortion," reads the bishops' statement. "Congress must remedy this problem by enacting the Conscience Protection Act now as part of the FY 2018 funding bill."

Failure to pass this legislation could result in prejudice against pro-life or religious employees, said Dr. Michael Parker of the Catholic Medical Association.

"If it's not enacted, it could lead to discrimination against these people – failure to work for certain employers or given access to certain programs," he told CNA.

"For example, Vanderbilt University made all their nurse practitioners in their programs agree to participate in abortion procedures in order to be accepted into their program," Parker said. There have also been several cases where nurses have faced the threat of losing their job if they would not assist in an abortion.

Parker warned that forcing someone to violate their conscience in this manner could result in additional issues later in life. Mandating someone who is against abortion to perform or assist with one could "cause them to have significant remorse," or could possibly trigger psychological problems.

"[The Catholic Medical Association] has always been for a conscience protection law that protects the conscience rights of physicians, especially in performing elective procedures such as abortions, sterilizations, physician-assisted suicide – or even genital mutilation," said Parker.

The U.S. bishops' conference has also released a video as part of the promotional effort for next week's advocacy:

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