September 20, 2002
You may soon have an opportunity to vote on the Abortion Non-Discrimination Act (H.R. 4691). 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. It stands ready for approval by the full House of Representatives.
Passage of H.R. 4691 is urgently needed. In recent years there has been a growing nationwide effort to attack the conscience rights of Catholic and other health care providers. In one example cited in the hearing on this bill, an Alaska court forced a community hospital to provide elective late-term abortions contrary to its policy and the sentiment of the community. Abortion advocacy groups have even 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 (see "ACLU asks release of $1.5 million," Burlington County Times, July 9, 2002).
H.R. 4691 addresses these problems in a modest and straightforward manner, by clarifying the scope of a nondiscrimination statute (42 USC §238n) that Congress overwhelmingly approved in 1996. 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 this 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. I hope Congress will take to heart what was said by a board member of the Alaska hospital mentioned above, 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." Please support the Abortion Non-Discrimination Act.
Anthony Cardinal Bevilacqua
Archbishop of Philadelphia
Chairman, Committee for Pro-Life Activities
U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops