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U.S. bishops discouraged over inaction on federal conscience protections

CongressU.S. bishops today expressed disappointment over Congress' lack of action on ensuring federal conscience protections for health care providers.

Archbishop Joseph E. Kurtz of Louisville, who serves as the president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, issued a statement in which he lamented lawmakers' failure to include the Abortion Non-Discrimination Act (ANDA) in recently-approved legislation funding the federal government. ANDA would close loopholes in current law and give health care providers the right to sue their employer if their freedom of conscience were denied.

The Catholic Conference of Illinois alerted members of its Illinois Catholic Advocacy Network (I-CAN) to the need for ANDA by telling the story of Cathy Cenzon-DeCarlo, a dedicated nurse who in 2009 was forced to participate in a late-term abortion at the hospital she worked at in New York state. (Join I-CAN now.)

Archbishop Kurtz blamed the deep partisanship in Washington, D.C., as the culprit behind the failure to include ANDA in the legislation.

"I am deeply concerned that a foundational principle that has received long-standing, bipartisan support in the past has suddenly become partisan. No one should be forced by the government to actively participate in what they believe to be the taking of an innocent life," Archbishop Kurtz stated. "This is not about 'access' to abortion. The principle at stake is whether people of faith and others who oppose abortion and abortion coverage should be compelled to participate in them. Federal law has long supported the rights of conscientious objection, and even in recent years, President Obama and many members of Congress have publicly declared their support for these existing laws. ANDA merely sought to give them a more consistent means of enforcement."

Archbishop Kurtz called upon lawmakers to set aside partisanship and do the right thing.

KurtzSmall"We call upon our elected officials to rise above partisan divisions and to renew their support for this most basic right," he stated. "ANDA should be enacted as soon as possible. Without it, current federal conscience laws are, now for the first time, being enforced erratically or not at all in places such as California."

He vowed the U.S. bishops would continue to advocate for ANDA.

"The mission of the Church in the public square is to witness to the dignity of every human life and advocate for the freedom to act in accord with one's moral and religious convictions in defense of those lives, no matter how young or vulnerable," Archbishop Kurtz stated. "We will continue to reach out to the White House and Congressional leaders untiringly until proper protections are guaranteed."

Read the full statement here.