USCCB and CCC Commend Administration for Enforcing Conscience Laws on Abortion

Life Hands

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ (HHS) Office for Civil Rights announced yesterday that it is taking corrective action against the University of Vermont Medical Center (UVMMC) and the State of California for violating federal conscience laws on abortion. The UVMMC violated the Church Amendment (enacted in 1973) by forcing a nurse to participate in an elective abortion against her religious beliefs and moral convictions.  

“The California Catholic Conference has long advocated on this issue and has sought every responsible redress – administratively and legally, state and federal,” said Edward “Ned” Dolejsi, interim executive director of the California Catholic Conference.  

“The Weldon amendment has not been properly enforced in California.  This should be a reminder to the state that religious liberty rights are as important as private rights.  We will continue to advocate for strong conscience protection and appropriate remedies when Weldon is violated. 

“For many years, the Missionary Guadulapanas of the Holy Spirit, sisters who work with farmworkers and those who are struggling in our state, were compelled by state department edict to purchase a healthcare plan that covered abortion.  They have been steadfast in their pursuit of eliminating this injustice and we applaud their work as we welcome this long-overdue decision,” Dolejsi said. (Read more background here.)

The State of California is violating the Weldon Amendment through state insurance and health care laws that require health plans to cover elective abortions. Most employers, including even some churches, are unable to obtain self-funded health plans that exclude this objectionable coverage.  Unfortunately, the Amendment prescribes an unreasonable penalty – withholding all federal funding for a state – which can do great harm to residents, particularly those who are poor.  We have advocated for a more realistic, fair penalty, that would make it possible to enforce the amendment and to fulfill its intended purpose – protect the of conscience rights for healthcare workers and end organizations from compelling their employees to violate their religious beliefs.

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