USCCB News Release
September 16, 2008
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
USCCB Applauds Proposed Conscience Regulations From HHS
WASHINGTON—Proposed government regulations to protect the conscience rights of health care professionals and institutions drew applause September 12, from the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB).
The USCCB commended the regulations in public comments it filed with the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS). The regulations are based on existing federal statutes, some of which were enacted more than three decades ago.
"We strongly commend the Secretary for publishing these proposed regulations," the USCCB wrote. "For over three decades…, Congress has sought to ensure that health care institutions and professionals will not have to choose between abandoning medicine and violating their conscience…. The proposed regulations would implement these longstanding federal statutory protections, and thus help guarantee that health care institutions and professionals are not pushed into this Hobson’s choice," where one is forced to go against one’s conscience or leave the practice of medicine.
The USCCB cited the critical need for the regulations, noting "growing hostility on the part of some professional organizations and advocacy groups to rights of conscience in health care." The USCCB also noted that some state and local governments in recent years have pressured health care professionals and institutions to provide abortions notwithstanding their conscientious objections.
The USCCB called upon HHS to make conscience protection as robust as possible, so no health care professional or institution will be coerced into participating in abortion at any stage of fetal development. To that end, the USCCB wrote, the regulations would be strengthened by defining abortion to include "any drug, procedure, or other act that the objector reasonably believes may take the life of a human being in utero at any time between conception (fertilization) and natural birth."
The USCCB also recommended some technical, clarifying changes in the proposed regulations.