Catholic Bishops Support Pro-Life Conscience Rights Bill

National   |   Steven Ertelt   |   Apr 6, 2011   |   6:11PM   |   Washington, DC

The nation’s Catholic bishops are supporting a bill in Congress that will help protect the conscience rights of pro-life medical professionals.

Cardinal Daniel DiNardo of Galveston-Houston, chairman of the Committee on Pro-Life Activities of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops has written a letter to members of the House of Representatives  to support a bipartisan bill protecting conscience rights in health insurance.

Introduced by Reps. Jeff Fortenberry (R-NE) and Dan Boren (D-OK), the Respect for Rights of Conscience Act of 2011 (HR 1179) “will help ensure that the new health care reform act is not misused to violate the religious freedom and rights of conscience of those who offer and purchase health insurance coverage in our nation,” Cardinal DiNardo wrote.

“Federal law, until now, has never prevented the issuers and purchasers of health coverage from negotiating a health plan that is consistent with their moral and religious convictions,” Cardinal DiNardo explained. “This could change, however, with implementation of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (PPACA) as now written.” He noted that the law “establishes a new list of ‘essential health benefits’ that will be mandatory for most health plans throughout the United States,” and also “requires all group and individual plans to cover general ‘preventive services,’ as well as additional preventive services specifically for women.”

“For months,” Cardinal DiNardo wrote, “Planned Parenthood and other groups have been urging that mandated ‘preventive services for women’ include all drugs and devices approved by the FDA for contraception—including those that can prevent the implantation and survival of a newly conceived human being, and hence are seen as abortifacient by the Catholic Church and many others.”

“Mandated inclusion of contraception, sterilization and abortifacient drugs in health plans poses an obvious potential conflict with rights of conscience,” Cardinal DiNardo wrote. “Such conflicts would also arise if HHS mandates inclusion of some fertility treatments such as in vitro fertilization, treatments using material from deliberately killed unborn children, or other procedures specifically rejected by the teachings of some religions.”

PPACA “arbitrarily and inexplicably does not protect the many religious denominations – including those providing the backbone of the nonprofit health care system in this country – whose moral teaching rejects specific procedures,” Cardinal DiNardo said. “If religious and other stakeholders are driven out of the health insurance marketplace by this aspect of PPACA, legislation whose purpose was to expand health coverage could have the opposite effect.”

The Respect for Rights of Conscience Act “is modest and well-crafted legislation…it only prevents PPACA itself from being misused to deny Americans’ existing freedom to seek health care coverage that meets their medical needs and respects their deepest convictions,” he wrote. “I am sure that most members of Congress voting for PPACA did not intend that it should deny or take away this freedom. Therefore I hope and expect that Representatives who supported PPACA as well as those who opposed it will join in co-sponsoring the Respect for Rights of Conscience Act and in helping to ensure its enactment.”

The full text of the letter may be read at: