Respect Life Office, USCCB urge Catholics to defend health care givers’ rights

by Luke Eggleston
SUN Staff Writer

The Syracuse Diocese Office of Respect Life and the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) are counting on Catholics to speak their conscience against the impending repeal of the Conscience Clause, which enables health care providers the opportunity to refuse to perform abortion.

On Dec. 19, 2008, then-President George Bush enacted regulations that would allow physicians the opportunity to practice according to their conscience regarding abortion, as well as sterilization and contraceptives.

“Bush chose this time because he saw in law that conscience protection laws were being challenged in states. I think he tried to make the conscience protections that are already in place — some as old as 1973 — he tried to give them a more firm ground. He tried to ensure that they would be upheld,” said diocesan Respect Life Director Lisa Hall.

The UCSSB circulated a question and answer document among pro-life agencies that addressed the issue of the conscience clause directly. “[The conscience clause is a] regulation that was proposed by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) last August and issued in final form on Dec. 19, 2008, after a lengthy period for public comments,” the document noted. “It implements and enforces three longstanding federal laws that protect individual and institutional health care providers from being forced to participate in procedures such as abortion to which they have a moral or religious objection.”

On April 9, President Barack Obama is expected to overturn the executive ruling. Prior to that date, the Respect Life Office is asking Catholics in the Syracuse Diocese to visit  and click the button “Act Now” to send a message to the department of health and human services.

“We want to urge the government to retain the current conscience regulations that are in place,” Hall said. “Our comments are best directed there. I think that’s our best avenue of action right now.”

If the conscience clause is overturned, any institution that receives federal funding could be compelled to advocate for abortion.

In a video that can be found at, Cardinal Francis George, Archbishop of Chicago and president of the USCCB, delivered a presentation on the subject. “As Catholic bishops and American citizens, we’re deeply concerned that such an action by the U.S. government would be the first step in moving our country from democracy to despotism,” Cardinal George said in the video.

Cardinal George appealed to the constitution and the fundamental right to freedom of religion.
“No government should ever come between an individual person and God,” he said. “That’s what America is supposed to be about. This is the true common ground for us as Americans.”
Cardinal George catalogued each instance of conscientious objection as it pertains to other objectionable activities such as war and pointed out that Catholic doctors or nurses who are opposed to abortion on religious grounds should have the same opportunity to exercise their faith.

“Why shouldn’t our government and our legal system permit conscientious objection to a morally bad action — the killing of a baby in the mother’s womb?” he said.

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