Urge Congress to Enact the Conscience Protection Act of 2017!
Last year, on July 13, the House passed an identical bill of the same name (S. 304), but it was never enacted into law. Therefore, we must continue to advocate for conscience protection for those who choose not to participate in abortion and remain hopeful that, with a change in the White House, our efforts will meet with success this year.
The Conscience Protection Act of 2017 will address the deficiencies that block effective enforcement of existing laws, most notably by establishing a private right of action allowing victims of discrimination to defend their own rights in court.
The need for clarification of federal law cannot be doubted. 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.
For example, on June 21, 2016, the HHS Office for Civil Rights declared that the State of California may continue forcing all health plans under its jurisdiction to cover elective abortions-in violation of the plain text of the Weldon amendment. Violations of the Weldon amendment are also taking place in other states, such as New York and Washington.
Even HHS itself has discriminated against those who cannot in conscience facilitate abortions, as when in 2011 it implemented a new "strong preference" for grantees willing to refer human trafficking victims solely to health care providers who favor abortion. While the Weldon amendment to the annual Labor/HHS appropriation bill has forbidden such governmental discrimination since 2004, state officials have violated that amendment with impunity and claimed that any effort to enforce it would be subject to legal challenge.
For additional information, read Cardinal Dolan and Archbishop Lori's letter to Congress addressing this issue.
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