Congressional Bill Would Protect Doctors and Nurses Who Refuse to Assist Abortions

National   |   Steven Ertelt   |   Feb 15, 2017   |   12:05PM   |   Washington, DC

Leading pro-life and faith-based organizations are asking members of Congress to support new legislation that would provide healthcare providers who conscientiously object to abortions the right not to participate in the life-destroying procedure.

The bill, the Conscience Protection Act, was introduced in Congress last year and it passed the U.S. House but was not voted on in the U.S. Senate. Leading pro-life members of Congress are trying again.

The measure also protects health insurance companies that oppose abortion and would rather not cover the procedure. California is one example of a state that currently forces health insurance companies and faith-based groups to comply with elective abortion coverage, with no exemptions based on religious opposition. The Department of Health and Human Services civil rights office declared that faith based organizations in California were mandated to provide abortion coverage.

Because of that, key pro-life and faith groups want Congress to take action. The United States Conference of Catholic Bishops has backed the legislation, as well as the Southern Baptist Convention’s Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission.

Here’s more:

The United States Conference of Catholic Bishops sent a letter to Congress asking them to pass the Conscience Protection Act of 2017.

In the letter, Cardinal Timothy Dolan of New York, chairman of the USCCB’s Committee on Pro-Life Activities and Archbishop William Lori, chairman of the USCCB’s Ad Hoc Committee on Religious Freedom, wrote that the Conscience Protection Act of 2017 is “essential legislation” that would protect the fundamental rights of health care providers.

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“The need for clarification of federal law cannot be doubted,” the letter states:

While existing federal laws already protect conscientious objection to abortion in theory, this protection has not proved effective in practice. These laws can only be enforced by complaint to the Office for Civil Rights at the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), which— despite repeated violations—has refused to fully enforce these laws.

The letter also states that the legislation would “ensure that those providing much-needed health care and health coverage can continue to do so without being forced by government to help destroy innocent unborn children.”

Travis Wussow, the Vice President for Public Policy and General Counsel at the ERLC told TheBlaze that the organization also supports the bill.

Wussow said that when medical professionals made complaints about being forced to participate in abortions or when California, the Obama administration did not enforce the existing law. He added that although the pro-life Tom Price has been confirmed as secretary of Health and Human Services, “there’s no guarantee we’ll have pro-life forces [always] occupying the White House or even HHS.”

“What this bill does is provide an avenue for the everyday people who are affected by the states refusing to follow federal law to take their issues to court and let the courts resolve it,” he said.

“This bill is needed to give health care providers the right to provide medical care without violating their deeply held beliefs,” says Oklahoma U.S. Senator James Lankford, who co-sponsored the bill.

“Conscience is the sacred space of human dignity where persons exercise their sincerely held, reasoned beliefs,” Nebraska U.S. Senator Jeff Fortenberry, another co-sponsor of the bill, commented to the Catholic Daily News. “It is a true poverty that this most cherished American principle is under assault, violating the good of persons and communities.”

There have been isolated cases of nurses being coerced into participating in abortion against their wishes in the United States.

One incident occurred at Mount Sinai Hospital in New York involving nurse Catherina Cenzon-DeCarlo, of Brooklyn. The New York Post reported:

“Bosses told the weeping Cenzon-DeCarlo, the patient was 22 weeks into her pregnancy and had preeclampsia, a condition marked by high blood pressure that can lead to seizures or death if left untreated.

The supervisor “claimed that the mother could die if [Cenzon-DeCarlo] did not assist in the [late term] abortion.”

But the nurse, the niece of a Filipino bishop, contends that the patient’s life was not in danger. She argued that the patient was not even on magnesium therapy, a common treatment for preeclampsia, and did not have problems indicating an emergency.

Her pleas were rejected, and instead she was threatened with career-ending charges of insubordination and patient abandonment, according to the lawsuit, filed Tuesday in Brooklyn federal court.

Feeling threatened, Cenzon-DeCarlo assisted in the procedure.”

“I felt violated and betrayed,” Cenzon-DeCarlo commented, also reflecting on nightmares and sleeplessness that have occurred after participating in the procedure. “I couldn’t believe that this could happen.”

An investigation by the Department of Health and Human Services, launched in response to the Cenzon-DeCarlo case, revealed that Mount Sinai Hospital would need to change its policies and procedures to accommodate healthcare professionals objecting to abortion, the Catholic Daily News continued.

In the New York Post report, Cenzon-DeCarlo stated: “I emigrated to this country in the belief that here religious freedom is sacred. Doctors and nurses shouldn’t be forced to abandon their beliefs and participate in abortion in order to keep their jobs.”