Skip to content

Battle for Conscience Protection Isn't Over

U.S. Bishops' Aide on New Bill's Future Challenges

WASHINGTON, D.C., DEC. 9, 2004 (Zenit) - Health care providers who are unwilling to participate in abortion now have protection under federal law, thanks to a bill that just passed through Congress.

But a public policy analyst with the U.S. bishops' Secretariat for Pro-Life Activities warns that the fight is not over.

Maureen Bailey shared with us how pro-abortion groups and legislators are challenging the new measure and introducing a bill to repeal it next spring -- and what the Church is doing to protect conscience rights.

Q: Congress recently approved a conscience-protection amendment. What precisely does the amendment do?

Bailey: Congress approved the Hyde-Weldon Conscience Protection Amendment -- named for its co-sponsors, congressmen Henry Hyde and Dr. Dave Weldon -- to the omnibus appropriations bill. The president is expected to sign this bill at any moment.

The amendment very simply prohibits the federal government, and state and local governments that receive federal financial assistance, from discriminating against health care entities because the entities decline to provide, pay for, provide coverage of, or refer for abortions.

The amendment defines "health care entity" to include "an individual physician or other health care professional, a hospital, a provider-sponsored organization, a health maintenance organization, a health insurance plan or any other kind of health care facility, organization or plan."

Q: What have pro-abortion groups said about the amendment?

Bailey: These groups and their allies in Congress have been attacking the amendment, claiming it has far-reaching effects. For example, they say the amendment would prohibit health care providers from talking about abortion.

A pro-abortion member of the House of Representatives claimed that the amendment would allow a physician to refuse to complete a miscarriage, even if the woman's death will result. Others have claimed that the amendment is an attack on Roe v. Wade.

Q: What is the truth about these charges?

Bailey: First, while Roe clearly needs to be reversed, this is not the amendment to do it. In fact, the amendment is entirely consistent with Roe. In Roe, the [U.S. Supreme] Court created a negative abortion liberty, a right against governmental interference in abortion. It did not create a positive right of access to have the government fund or facilitate abortion.

And subsequent Supreme Court decisions have clearly upheld the right of the state to decide not to pay for or provide personnel for abortion.

Second, conscience laws are on the books in 47 states. Only one of these provides a "life" exception, but in no state has there been a case of a woman dying because of an asserted conscience-right.

In any case, the claim that the amendment would allow a physician to refuse to complete a miscarriage is absurd. It protects physicians and other health care providers who choose not to kill unborn children. Completing a miscarriage involves removing a child who has already died.

And finally, under the amendment, no one is prohibited from talking about abortion. The amendment protects health care providers who are unwilling to participate in abortion. It does not affect the "rights" of willing providers -- the ones who are performing the 1.3 million abortions each year in the United States.

One fascinating aspect of this debate has been hearing the side that is supposedly "pro-choice" denying choice to those who want to choose life.

Q: What was the impetus for this legislation?

Bailey: There is a concerted national effort to overturn, or exploit loopholes in, existing conscience protections.

Pro-abortion groups -- including the ACLU, Planned Parenthood, the National Women's Law Center and the Center for Reproductive Rights -- are working to abolish or circumvent existing conscience protections and impose new mandates where no such protection exists.

For example, the ACLU of New Jersey intervened in a hospital merger in an attempt to force a Catholic hospital to build an abortion clinic.

In Florida, after a community hospital joined a cost-sharing consortium with a Catholic system and ceased performing abortions, it was sued by the city of St. Petersburg, which leased land to the hospital. Soon the ACLU sued both the city and the hospital. Under the pressure of the lawsuits, the hospital left the cost-saving consortium.

Q: Are these attacks on conscience rights limited to Catholic hospitals and mergers?

Bailey: No; in fact, the vast majority of hospitals, public and private, whether religious or not, do not participate in abortions. These hospitals, too, have been targeted by pro-abortion groups.

For example, in Alaska the Center for Reproductive Rights and the ACLU brought a lawsuit to force a community hospital to allow late-term abortions on its premises. In the course of the lawsuit, the Alaska Supreme Court struck down, in part, the state's conscience law.

And in New Mexico, the state board of finance refused to approve a county/city owned hospital lease because the lease contained a provision disallowing elective abortions at the hospital.

In the words of a county commissioner, the pro-life policy was stated in the lease because "there was a desire that our hospital focus be on health care and life, and there is a desire that it would not become, in the community's eyes, a place where you might have an abortion mill in the future."

But the hospital succumbed to the coercion of the board and agreed to remove the pro-life policy from the lease. New Mexico, too, has a conscience law on its books.

In many of these cases, the pro-abortion groups with allied government officials tried using a federal angle by claiming that receipt of federal funds required the hospital to do abortions, or that somehow not doing abortions is a violation of Roe or the First Amendment.

So, it was necessary to make federal law clear: The federal government -- and state and local governments receiving federal funds -- are not to discriminate against pro-life health care providers.

Q: What more should be done to protect the right of conscience for health care workers?

Bailey: In the next Congress, pro-abortion senators will introduce a bill to repeal the Hyde-Weldon Conscience Protection Amendment. Some time before May, the bill will be considered, with four hours of debate and without amendment. So, there is still a need to protect the amendment by contacting senators and educating the public.

At the same time, there is a particular need to educate health care providers about their existing rights under state laws and to protect them from threats on other issues. The campaigns to mandate contraception and emergency contraception are incremental steps in the effort to erode the conscience rights of health care providers.

Q: How is the Church responding to right of conscience issues?

Bailey: The Church is actively working on this issue in the legislative arena. Protection of conscience rights, and in particular, the adoption of the Hyde-Weldon Conscience Protection Amendment, has been one of the USCCB Pro-Life Secretariat's top legislative priorities.

Across the country, state Catholic conferences have been working to defeat new mandates. In states more favorable to conscience rights, the Church has been actively working for more positive protections of these rights.


Catholic Online CA, US
Catholic Online - Publisher, 661 869-1000



Abortion, Culture, Death, Pope, Congress, Law

More Catholic PRWire

Showing 1 - 50 of 4,718

A Recession Antidote
Randy Hain

Monaco & The Vatican: Monaco's Grace Kelly Exhibit to Rome--A Review of Monegasque-Holy See Diplomatic History
Dna. Maria St. Catherine Sharpe, t.o.s.m., T.O.SS.T.

The Why of Jesus' Death: A Pauline Perspective
Jerom Paul

A Royal Betrayal: Catholic Monaco Liberalizes Abortion
Dna. Maria St.Catherine De Grace Sharpe, t.o.s.m., T.O.SS.T.

Embrace every moment as sacred time
Mary Regina Morrell

My Dad
JoMarie Grinkiewicz

Letting go is simple wisdom with divine potential
Mary Regina Morrell

Father Lombardi's Address on Catholic Media
Catholic Online

Pope's Words to Pontifical Latin American College
Catholic Online

Prelate: Genetics Needs a Conscience
Catholic Online

State Aid for Catholic Schools: Help or Hindrance?
Catholic Online

Scorsese Planning Movie on Japanese Martyrs
Catholic Online

2 Nuns Kidnapped in Kenya Set Free
Catholic Online

Holy See-Israel Negotiation Moves Forward
Catholic Online

Franchising to Evangelize
Catholic Online

Catholics Decry Anti-Christianity in Israel
Catholic Online

Pope and Gordon Brown Meet About Development Aid
Catholic Online

Pontiff Backs Latin America's Continental Mission
Catholic Online

Cardinal Warns Against Anti-Catholic Education
Catholic Online

Full Circle
Robert Gieb

Three words to a deeper faith
Paul Sposite

Relections for Lent 2009
chris anthony

Wisdom lies beyond the surface of life
Mary Regina Morrell

World Food Program Director on Lent
Catholic Online

Moral Clarity

Pope's Lenten Message for 2009
Catholic Online

A Prayer for Monaco: Remembering the Faith Legacy of Prince Rainier III & Princess Grace and Contemplating the Moral Challenges of Prince Albert II
Dna. Maria St. Catherine Sharpe

Keeping a Lid on Permissiveness
Sally Connolly

Glimpse of Me
Sarah Reinhard

The 3 stages of life
Michele Szekely

Sex and the Married Woman
Cheryl Dickow

A Catholic Woman Returns to the Church
Cheryl Dickow

Modernity & Morality
Dan Shea

Just a Minute
Sarah Reinhard

Catholic identity ... triumphant reemergence!
Hugh McNichol

Edging God Out
Paul Sposite

Burying a St. Joseph Statue
Cheryl Dickow

George Bush Speaks on Papal Visit
Catholic Online

Sometimes moving forward means moving the canoe
Mary Regina Morrell

Action Changes Things: Teaching our Kids about Community Service
Lisa Hendey

Easter... A Way of Life
Paul Spoisite

Papal initiative...peace and harmony!
Hugh McNichol

Proclaim the mysteries of the Resurrection!
Hugh McNichol

Jerusalem Patriarch's Easter Message
Catholic Online

Good Friday Sermon of Father Cantalamessa
Catholic Online

Papal Address at the End of the Way of the Cross
Catholic Online

Cardinal Zen's Meditations for Via Crucis
Catholic Online

Interview With Vatican Aide on Jewish-Catholic Relations
Catholic Online

Pope Benedict XVI On the Easter Triduum
Catholic Online

Holy Saturday...anticipation!
Hugh McNichol

Never Miss any Updates!

Stay up to date with the latest news, information, and special offers.

Learn about Catholic world

Catholic Online
Inform - Inspire - Ignite

Catholic Online Saints
Your saints explained

Catholic Online Prayers
Prayers for every need

Catholic Online Bible
Complete bible online

Catholic Online News
Your news Catholic eye

Daily Reading
Today's bible reading

Lent / Easter
Death & resurrection of Jesus

Advent / Christmas
Birth of Jesus

Rest of Catholic Online
All Catholic world we offer

Products and services we offer

Catholic Online Shopping
Catholic medals, gifts & books

The California Network
Inspiring streaming service

Advertise on Catholic Online
Your ads on

Catholic Online Email
Email with Catholic feel

Catholic Online Singles
Safe, secure Catholic dating

The California Studios
World-class post production service

Learn the Catholic way

Catholic Online School
Free Catholic education for all

Student Classes
K-12 & Adult Education Classes

School Teachers
Teacher lesson plans & resources

Support Free Education
Tax deductible support Free education

Connect with us online

Catholic Online on Facebook
Catholic social network

Catholic Online on Twitter
Catholic Tweets

Catholic Online on YouTube
Enjoy our videos

Catholic Online on Instagram
Shared Catholic moments

Catholic Online on Pinterest
Catholic ideas style inspiration

Catholic Online Logo

Copyright 2018 Catholic Online. All materials contained on this site, whether written, audible or visual are the exclusive property of Catholic Online and are protected under U.S. and International copyright laws, © Copyright 2018 Catholic Online. Any unauthorized use, without prior written consent of Catholic Online is strictly forbidden and prohibited.