WASHINGTON (CNS) — Medical experts, politicians and religious leaders spoke at a Capitol Hill forum July 8, urging Congress to pass H.R. 4828, the Conscience Protection Act.
The act would ensure that no government entity could penalize or discriminate against any health care provider — professionals, facilities or health insurers — that refused to be involved with abortion.
A July 7 statement from Cardinal Timothy M. Dolan of New York and Archbishop William E. Lori of Baltimore cited three recent examples of this type of discrimination in California, New York state and Washington state. In all cases, pro-life health providers are forced to perform or insure elective abortions with no exceptions for conscientious objection.
Dr. Dave Weldon, former congressman and author of the Weldon Amendment, said at the morning panel that the Obama administration had ignored the plain meaning of his amendment, which denies federal funding to governments or government programs that discriminate against health care entities that refuse to cover or refer for abortions.
The Conscience Protection Act of 2016, panelists said, would ensure that the Weldon Amendment’s original intent was enforced.
Weldon also announced that House Speaker Paul Ryan, R-Wisconsin, would move a conscience protection bill in the House of Representatives the week of July 11.
All of the panelists advocated in favor of the Conscience Protection Act, with seven of the 10 having been involved with conscientious objection cases with the Alliance Defending Freedom.
Two nurses — Cathy DeCarlo, who spoke via prerecorded video, and Fe Vinoya — both offered emotional testimonies about how they were forced to assist with abortions.
Vinoya said that forcing unwilling participants to carry out elective abortions would hurt patients as much as it hurt health providers.
“No one wants medical professionals with the power of life and death in their hands being forced to put aside their moral convictions,” Vinoya said.
Dr. Marie-Alberte Boursiquot, president-elect of the Catholic Medical Association, said Catholic medical students are at a high risk for being coerced into performing elective abortions.
Boursiquot quoted a passage from the ancient Hippocratic oath, which says, “Neither will I administer a poison to anybody when asked to do so, nor will I suggest such a course. Similarly, I will not give to a woman a pessary to cause abortion.”
Some medical schools now use a widely-accepted 1964 version that does not mention abortion.
Dr. Donna J. Harrison, executive director of the American Association of Pro-Life Obstetricians and Gynecologists, said some medical students are avoiding the OB-GYN track in medical school to avoid abortion coercion.
“There is tremendous pressure on young doctors to provide abortions,” Harrison said. She fears this pressure could extend to hospital boards, and other panelists said they feared coercive laws might ultimately rob pro-life doctors and institutions of their licenses to practice.
Harrison pointed out the distinction between elective abortion and operations that separate a child from its mother in the hope of saving both lives.
Jim Garlow, pastor of Skyline Church in La Mesa, California, which was forced to cover abortions in its health care plan, said that the movement supporting legal abortion began saying, “If you don’t want an abortion, don’t have one,” but now, he says, those who don’t want to be involved with abortion are coerced or forced.
U.S. Rep. Keith Rothfus, R-Pennsylvania, said this coercion is often financial. He said institutions that object to abortion lose over $36,000 per employee per year by not covering abortions, whether by self-insuring or in other ways.
The panelists called this coercion discriminatory.
U.S. Rep. Trent Franks, R-Arizona, said that Democrats in favor of civil rights should speak out against this discrimination.
Richard Doerflinger, former associate director of the U.S. Catholic Bishops’ pro-life secretariat, said that until the Obama administration, both parties supported conscience protection.
Even the “most ardent supporters of abortion” should be able to agree on the Conscience Protection Act, said Casey Mattox, senior counsel for Alliance Defending Freedom.