U.S. bishops ‘gravely concerned’ about review of conscience protection rules

U.S. bishops ‘gravely concerned’ about review of conscience protection rules


The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) is “gravely concerned” about the Obama administration’s move to rescind conscience protection regulations which help pro-life health care providers.

The regulations, implemented in the final months of the George W. Bush presidency, made explicit the existing legal protections for medical workers and institutions which object to cooperating in abortions.

On Feb. 27, the White House’s Office of Management and Budget (OMB) announced that it was reviewing a proposal to lift the U.S. Department of Health and Human Service’s (HHS) regulation. The review is the first step toward reversing the policy and is open to public comment in the 30 days after the announcement.

Deirdre McQuade, Assistant Director for Policy and Communications at the USCCB's Secretariat of Pro-Life Activities, in a Feb. 27 statement said the conference is “gravely concerned” about the proposed change.

“Efforts to nullify or weaken any conscience protection will undermine our national heritage of diversity and religious freedom, reduce patients' access to life-affirming health care, and endanger the national consensus required to enact much-needed health care reform.”

“The Administration says it will open a new 30-day comment period so Americans may voice their concerns,” she continued. “We encourage participation in this process by all committed to the sanctity of human life, the freedom of conscience, and the ethical integrity of our healing professions.”

As an expansion of its national postcard effort, the USCCB has also launched an e-mail campaign urging Congress to maintain pro-life policies and to oppose the federal funding and promotion of abortion.

Both the postcard effort and the e-mail effort are being coordinated through the USCCB partner organization the National Committee for a Human Life Amendment (NCHLA).

NCHLA was tasked with coordinating the national pro-life postcard campaigns to encourage citizens to express their views to Congress “clearly and respectfully.”

McQuade said tens of millions of postcards have been distributed in parishes, schools, non-Catholic churches and civic organizations across the U.S.

“The e-mail campaign will give even more citizens the chance to participate,” she said.

The e-mails tell a constituent’s Senators and Representative to oppose the Freedom of Choice Act or “any similar measure.”

“It is especially important that Congress retain these laws in the various appropriations bills, e.g., the Hyde Amendment in the Labor/Health and Human Services appropriations bill,” the e-mails also say.

"To guard against the erosion of current pro-life measures—and to keep abortion from becoming a federal entitlement—our voice is needed now more than ever," McQuade said.

More information on the USCCB e-mail campaign is available at http://www.usccb.org/postcard

However, the postcard and e-mail campaign does not directly apply to the HHS rule change, as the department is governed by the executive branch of the federal government.

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