US

Bishops Call Attention To Loopholes In Laws Protecting Religious Doctors

REUTERS/Zach Gibson

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Joshua Gill Religion Reporter

Catholic leaders came out in support of a bill protecting doctors that refuse involvement in abortion, as pro-life groups urge Congress to pass the legislation.

The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops sent a letter Wednesday to both houses of Congress representing a pro-life coalition’s support for the Conscience Protection Act of 2017, which they said will protect religious doctors from prosecution should they refuse to provide or be involved in abortions. The bishops claimed that, while the Weldon Amendment to the Health and Human Services mandate ostensibly protects doctors with religious objections, many states have found loopholes allowing them to penalize doctors for acting according to their consciences.

“Americans realize that the logic of their position requires them to respect a choice not to be involved in abortion. Yet, with violations of federal conscience laws occurring in California, New York, Washington, Alaska, Illinois, and most recently Oregon, it is increasingly clear that the current laws offer far less protection in practice than in theory,” the letter read.

The bishops cited a 2014 California policy that forced all health plans under the state’s jurisdiction to cover elective abortions “for any reason, including late-term abortions and those performed for reasons of ‘sex selection,'” without any exemptions. Objectors filed complaints against the policy, but the HHS Office for Civil Rights mandated that the state of California had every right to continue enforcing their policy, despite its violation of the Weldon Amendment.

The bishops said the amendment is not strong enough, as it does not allow those unjustly penalized for refusing to provide abortions to sue those who penalize them, or for courts to “take measured action to end this discrimination.”

“This will help nurses and other health professionals like Cathy DeCarlo, threatened with loss of their careers and livelihoods if they do not assist in abortions, whose cases have sometimes languished for years at the HHS Office for Civil Rights,” the letter read.

“It would be an enormous step forward in assuring Americans who serve the sick and needy that they can do so without being forced by government to violate their most deeply held convictions on respect for innocent human life,” the letter added.

The group of signatories was comprised of 33 different Christian and pro-life groups, including National Right to Life Committee, Knights of Columbus, American College of Pediatricians, Family Research Council, and the Southern Baptist Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission.

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