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Cathy Cenzon-DeCarlo, a registered nurse, speaks during a March 5 press conference on Capitol Hill in Washington March 5. Cenzon-De Carlo, a Catholic, talked about being coerced into participating in abortions at New York's Mount Sinai Hospital. (CNS photo /Bob Roller)

Stepping away from the non-stop stream of conclave/papal news—today Archbishop William Lori of Baltimore, chairman of the USCCB’s Committee for Religious Liberty, praised an act introduced yesterday in the House of Representatives that would offer conscience protections to those with “deeply-held, reasoned beliefs” preventing them from complying with the HHS mandate.

The “Health Care Conscience Rights Act,” introduced by Rep. Diane Black (R-TN), also provides conscience protections to health-care workers and providers who refuse to provide, pay for, or offer referrals for abortions.

Archbishop Lori released this statement on the proposed legislation:

I am grateful to Congresswoman Black and other sponsors for their leadership today. I welcome the Health Care Conscience Rights Act and call for its swift passage into law. While federal laws are on the books protecting conscience rights in health care, this Act would make such protection truly effective. This overdue measure is especially needed in light of new challenges to conscience rights arising from the federal health care reform act."

From Rep. Black’s website:

The administration has leveraged its expansion of government to trample on the religious freedom of private individuals, hospitals, non-profits, businesses, churches and universities - forcing many Americans to make an impossible choice: either defy your religious convictions or break the law and face financially-crippling legal penalties. As a nurse for more than 40 years, I am proud to introduce the Health Care Conscience Rights Act to protect religious freedom, disempower Obamacare, and stop the administration’s assault on Americans’ First Amendment rights.

However, it appears that action on the proposed legislation may be some way off yet. Joan Frawley Desmond reports at the National Catholic Register:

Yet by the end of a long day on Capitol Hill, which has been roiled by intense partisan conflict over efforts to reduce the federal deficit, the House Rules Committee signaled that it would bar adoption of the bill as an amendment to the continuing resolution.

The problem, Congressman Fleming explained in an interview, is that “the House leadership thinks it will be tough enough to get [the continuing resolution] passed. Adding another controversy only complicates it by an order of magnitude. The Democrats in the House and Senate and the president don’t want [the conscience rights bill], and they control two-thirds of the government.”

“We are a divided nation on these issues,” Fleming admitted. “But it’s important not to let this discussion die away. We need to show that [the current situation] is hurting real people, until it begins to trend in our direction; and then we can make the conscience protections stick in the law.” 

For now, the decision to keep the provision out of the spending bill could mean that operating-room nurses like Cathy Cenzon-DeCarlo will have to wait much longer to obtain the help they need.

“This coercion was illegal,” the Filipino-born nurse told House members, as she recalled the abortion she was forced to facilitate in 2009. “I felt violated all over again when the courts told me that even if the hospital broke the law, I had no right to have my day in court.”

 

 
About the Author
Catherine Harmon is managing editor of Catholic World Report.
 
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