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White House silent on conscience concerns in health care

White House press secretary Jen Psaki would not directly answer questions by EWTN News Nightly White House correspondent Owen Jensen on conscience rights in health care, at Tuesday’s White House press briefing.

Credit: turtix/Shutterstock

Washington D.C., Mar 2, 2021 / 02:00 pm (CNA).- The White House on Tuesday would not reveal its position on doctors being forced to perform abortions and gender-transition surgeries under the Equality Act.

White House press secretary Jen Psaki would not directly answer questions by EWTN News Nightly White House correspondent Owen Jensen on conscience rights in health care, at Tuesday’s White House press briefing.

Jensen brought up the Equality Act, which passed the House last week and which outlaws “pregnancy discrimination” and discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity.

The U.S. bishops’ conference (USCCB), as well as pro-life groups, have warned that the legislation would essentially create rights to procedures such as abortion, sterilization, and gender-transition surgery. The bill could also eviscerate conscience protections of health care workers opposed to participating in these procedures, these groups have warned.

“Pro-life groups right now are very concerned about the phrase ‘pregnancy discrimination’ in the Equality Act,” Jensen said. “That it would force doctors to perform abortions, even if it violates their conscience. There are also concerns the bill would force doctors to perform gender-transition surgeries and sterilizations, again, even if it violates their conscience.”

“What does the president, President Biden, say about those concerns?” he asked Psaki.

The press secretary replied that Biden “has been a long supporter of Roe v. Wade,” the 1973 Supreme Court ruling that legalized abortion nationwide. She said nothing of conscience protections.

When Jensen followed up by asking about Biden’s position on “conscience concerns,” Psaki simply repeated her previous statement.

Jensen then asked if Biden would maintain the Conscience and Religious Freedom Division at the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS). The division was created in 2018 to enforce federal statutory conscience protections and field complaints by health care workers who claimed they were forced to participate in procedures such as abortions.

Psaki, again, would not directly answer that question. “You’ll have to talk to a future secretary Becerra once he is confirmed,” she said.

Xavier Becerra, currently the attorney general of California, is the nominee to lead HHS and could be confirmed by the Senate on Wednesday. He was twice found to be in violation of federal conscience laws by the HHS Office for Civil Rights, for his defense of state mandates that pro-life groups provide abortion coverage and that crisis pregnancy centers advertise for abortions.

At his confirmation hearing last week, Becerra would not say when asked whether he would maintain the existing conscience division at HHS. He simply said he would “respect” and “enforce” the law—which would include a number of existing federal conscience protections in health care.

The HHS conscience division has outlined those conscience protections and enforced them in recent years. In 2019, for instance, the HHS civil rights office found a Vermont hospital to be in violation of federal law after a nurse complained of being forced to assist at an abortion.

Becerra, at his hearings, would not name a single abortion restriction that he supported. He refused to answer, when asked, if he would support bans on sex-selective or partial-birth abortions. He did, however, comment that his wife is an OB/GYN doctor who cares for babies and that his mother prays the rosary.

Becerra also sued the Trump administration over its granting religious and moral exemptions to the HHS contraceptive mandate. The mandate forced employers to provide coverage for contraceptives, sterilizations, and abortifacients in their health plans.

California’ lawsuit, along with Pennsylvania’s, ultimately forced the Little Sisters of the Poor to go back to court to defend their religious exemption. The sisters won at the Supreme Court last July, but President Biden said during his presidential campaign that he would repeal their religious exemption.

When asked about the sisters’ religious exemption to having to provide contraception coverage and last week, Becerra said he would “defend the law and support the law that’s in place.”


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6 Comments

  1. She refused to answer a direct question about yet another attack on one of the main precepts of our faith yet still Biden pretends to be a catholic.

    It would be better if he just skips Mass on Sunday.

    • Why should he? Gregory is cool with it. They just agree to disagree about whether you should be able to kill unborn children.

  2. At times in life an occurrence strikes our sensibilities and cries out for justice. Christ, remade by the less conscientious of sin prior to Vat II and moreso after, was for the New Age of Aquarius a dreamy eyed tolerant Yuppie type sans the ponytail. At the Last Supper his words belie the nonsense, The Son of Man will go just as it is written about Him, but woe to that man by whom He is betrayed. It would be better for him if he had not been born (Mt 25:24). Christ is not a toothless Tiger. Priests in the New Age have become mambypamby, fearful of causing the faithful the least distress on far lesser issues, like changing Mass schedules. Eternal painful suffering is for this writer an unbearable thought, insofar as my human intellect may contain it. Our Lord when queried by saints on this refers to his infinite good itself incomprehensible. Most of us take the command to become like children lightly. Rationalization of the hard truths of the faith is consequently common. Although it seems in that obediently induced sense of childlike innocence the distance between good and evil becomes further polarized, at times evil strikingly abhorrent. Judas furthered sin going beyond simple rejection to betrayal. Betrayal is the conscious decision to destroy, to irreparably disfigure goodness. Whether politician or cleric, high or low Judas betrayal of Christ incurs an awful sentence.

  3. When this abominable, anti-God “Equality Act” passes the Senate and gets approved by Biden, the faithful flock needs to urge the Church to rebel against this Act. We need to be ready to support and encourage physicians and health care workers to honor God and not the federal government. Even greater persecution of the Church is going to happen in the U.S. We will need to be bold yet do all things in love and with prayer for the enemies of the Church.

  4. One thing must be clearly understood. No one can “force” a doctor to perform an abortion or sexually mutilate a child in the name of transgenderism. (Any more than a law can “force” a priest to reveal sins told him in the Confessional.) You may indeed lose your job. You may even be jailed. But that is a small price to pay and needs to be considered in advance of taking up that particular medical specialty. There are many to choose from.It is time for the church to stop playing legal games in which they ask “permission” in courts to remain true to it’s values. Ditto, it is time to stop patting Catholics on the head and making nice, HOPING they will vote for the candidate that reflects moral values. They must be INFORMED that to do otherwise is a grave sin. If they are affronted and leave the church, we have not lost much.In reality,by their actions they have already left. Their support of candidates whose final aim is to eradicate the church and the moral values it teaches will need to be answered for by them in the next life, at the very least. Its time for the church to play hard ball in the public square before it is so weakened that no defense at all can be mounted.

  5. We all know what the answer to the question is. Must they play this childish game? This silliness notwithstanding, the most powerful official in the world being allowed by the Cardinal of Washington DC to receive the Eucharist and call himself a “devout Catholic” while pursuing one of the most anti-Christian agendas imaginable remains the big story from a Catholic perspective. Surely, it has to be the worst scandal involving a politician in the Church’s history in this country. It even surpasses the Archdiocese of Boston’s relationship with the wretched Ted Kennedy, who could only dream of having the power that Biden now has at his disposal. Gregory, by refusing to exercise his authority to discipline or even confront this monster becomes complicit in his offenses. By not calling Cardinal Gregory to account, his brother bishops add their guilt to his. As for the guy in Rome who put Gregory in his current perch and is getting exactly what he wants from him, his culpability is incalculable.

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