Thursday, December 18, 2008


WASHINGTON — A final regulation protecting health care providers’ conscience rights was issued December 18 by the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS). The U.S. Catholic bishops’ spokesperson on abortion, Deirdre A. McQuade, welcomed the published regulation as a way to protect medical personnel from being coerced to violate their consciences in federally funded programs. The regulation clarifies and implements existing federal statutes enacted by Congress in 1973, 1996 and 2004. (See text of these laws.)

“Individuals and institutions committed to healing should not be required to take the very human life that they are dedicated to protecting,” McQuade said. “The enforcement of federal laws to protect their freedom of conscience is long overdue.”

“Catholic health care providers will especially welcome this mark of respect for the excellent life-affirming care they provide to all in need. But Catholics do not stand alone in opposition to the deliberate destruction of nascent human life. All health care providers should be free to serve their patients without violating their most deeply held moral and religious convictions in support of life,” McQuade said.

“The USCCB thanks Secretary Michael Leavitt for implementing this regulation,” McQuade said. “We urge the incoming Congress and Administration to honor this much-needed implementation of longstanding laws. Respect for conscience rights on abortion should be a strong point of agreement among those considering themselves ‘pro-life’ and ‘pro-choice.’ Yet this regulation is already under attack. A month before it was even published, pro-abortion senators had introduced a bill (S. 20) to invalidate it regardless of its content.”

The USCCB issued a statement on August 21 welcoming the proposed regulation when it was first released for public comment. Cardinal Justin Rigali of Philadelphia, chair of the bishops’ Committee for Pro-Life Activities, also wrote to Congress urging respect for conscience protection measures. Formal comments on the proposal were later submitted by the USCCB Office of General Counsel.

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