WASHINGTON (September 20, 2002) -– Warning of "a growing nationwide effort to attack the conscience rights of Catholic and other health care providers," Cardinal Anthony Bevilacqua urged members of the House of Representatives to support the Abortion Non-Discrimination Act.
A vote on the Abortion Non-Discrimination Act ( H.R. 4691) is expected shortly. The Act is sponsored by over 80 House members, has been the subject of a subcommittee hearing, and is endorsed by many pro-life, religious and medical organizations.
"Passage of H.R. 4691 is urgently needed," said Cardinal Bevilacqua. The Cardinal, Chairman of the Committee for Pro-Life Activities at the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, wrote to the House on September 20.
Citing examples of the threat to freedom of conscience, Cardinal Bevilacqua noted that an Alaska court recently forced a community hospital to provide elective late-term abortions contrary to its policy and the sentiment of the community. In another case, abortion advocacy groups urged the state of New Jersey to require a Catholic health system to build an abortion clinic on its premises, to serve what they see as a right of "access" to abortion.
"H.R. 4691 addresses these problems...by clarifying the scope of a nondiscrimination statute (42 USC §238n) that Congress overwhelmingly approved in 1996," Cardinal Bevilacqua wrote. "The current law protects 'health care entities,' including medical residency programs,
from being forced by government bodies to provide abortions or abortion training. The new bill makes it clear that the protection extends to the full range of health care entities, including hospitals and individual health professionals other than physicians. It also applies this protection to entities being told they must pay for abortions against their will.
"Abortion advocates' claim to support a 'right to choose' is open to serious question if they oppose this modest bill," Cardinal Bevilacqua continued. "I hope Congress will take to heart what was said by a board member of the Alaska hospital at the subcommittee hearing on this bill: Hospitals and other health care providers have 'a right to choose not to be involved in destroying life."
The Cardinal's letter was sent to all members of the House of Representatives along with a fact sheet rebutting charges against the bill by the American Civil Liberties Union (available at www.usccb.org/prolife/issues/abortion/aclufact.htm).