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Urgent Action: Urge Congress to Pass the Conscience Protection Act NOW!

July 12th, 2016

(JPIC action alert is adapted from an alert action resource by USCCB)

July 13, the House is scheduled to vote on the Conscience Protection Act of 2016. Recent action by the federal government allowing California to continue forcing health plans to cover abortions has prompted the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops to call for an immediate federal remedy.  Oblates JPIC strongly supports the Catholic Bishops and urge you take immediate action in support of the Conscience Protection Act of 2016 H.R. 4828/S. 2927.

It is critical that you contact your representatives and urge them to take immediate action to enact the Conscience Protection Act of 2016 H.R. 4828/S. 2927).  Even if you have responded to a previous alert, please contact your representatives again and urge them to support this bill.


On July 13, the House is scheduled to vote on the Conscience Protection Act of 2016. It would amend the Public Health Service Act to “codify the prohibition against the federal government and state and local governments that receive federal financial assistance for health-related activities penalizing or discriminating against a health care provider based on the provider’s refusal to be involved in, or provide coverage for, abortion.” 

In 2014, California started forcing almost all health plans in the state to cover elective abortions, even late-term abortions. Religious employers in California that offer group health plans to their employees lodged an objection with the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), which has oversight responsibility for enforcing federal conscience laws.   On June 21, HHS declared, contrary to the plain meaning of current federal law that the California Department of Managed Health Care can continue to force all health plans under its jurisdiction to cover elective abortions. 

What is more, other states such as Washington and New York may be following California’s lead. These actions clearly violate a federal law known as the Weldon Amendment, which forbids governments receiving federal health care funds to discriminate against those who decline to take part in abortion or abortion coverage. Unfortunately, this amendment has limitations that may make it difficult to enforce.

While HHS badly interpreted the Weldon amendment, the Conscience Protection Act (CPA) of 2016, (H.R. 4828/S. 2927), will make it even clearer that sponsors or providers of health plans that do not include elective abortion cannot be discriminated against.  The CPA will protect health care providers from being forced to pay for or participate in abortions, and allow victims of discrimination a “right of action” to defend their rights in court. For example, nurses threatened with loss of their jobs unless they assist in abortions have found they have no right to go to court to see the law enforced. Congress should reaffirm a principle that has long enjoyed broad bipartisan support: Government should not force hospitals, doctors, nurses and other providers to stop offering much-needed health care because they cannot in good conscience participate in destroying a human life.


TAKE ACTION: 

Suggested Message:

I urge you to enact H.R. 4828/S. 2927, the Conscience Protection Act of 2016, to defend the conscience rights of those who wish not to be involved in supporting abortion.  Enacting this law is even more urgent with the recent decision by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services to allow the state of California to continue forcing health plans to cover elective abortions.  This bill is needed now to stop further discrimination against all people who respect unborn human life.  It is wrong for government to force Americans to violate their deeply held convictions on respect for human life.

CONCLUSION:

On May 16, Cardinal Timothy Dolan and Archbishop William Lori, chairing the U.S. Bishops’ Committee on Pro-Life Activities and Ad Hoc Committee for Religious Liberty respectively, wrote to Senate members urging them to support and co-sponsor S. 2927. They urged the House to enact H.R. 4828 in March.  “When government… mandates involvement in abortion as a condition for being allowed to provide life-affirming health care services,” they wrote, “it not only undermines the widely acknowledged civil rights of health care providers but also limits access to good health care for American women and men.”
See the full text of their letter.

 

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