Bishops urge Congress to pass conscience protections

The Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception in Washington is seen July 4 prior to the closing Mass of the Fortnight for Freedom. (CNS photo/Jaclyn Lippelmann, Catholic Standard)

Two Catholic archbishops are urging Congress to pass a law they say is needed to protect conscience rights of health care workers and Catholic organizations opposed to abortion.

Cardinal Timothy Dolan of New York and Archbishop William Lori of Baltimore wrote to Congressional leaders Thursday in support of the Conscience Protection Act of 2016, a bill introduced in March by Louisiana Republican Rep. John Fleming. The bill is co-sponsored by 46 Republicans and one Democrat.

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Dolan, head of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ Committee on Pro-Life Activities, and Lori, who leads the U.S.C.C.B.’s Ad Hoc Committee for Religious Liberty, wrote to lawmakers earlier this year in support of the bill, but sent another letter Thursday citing recent changes in law that they say make the bill’s passage more urgent.

They cite policies in California and New York that require insurers to cover elective abortions and a court ruling in the state of Washington that could compel Catholic hospitals to offer the procedure.

“These disturbing new actions to force healthcare providers to participate in the destruction of human life cry out for an immediate federal remedy,” the archbishops wrote. “Even those who disagree on the issue of abortion should be able to respect those who wish not to participate in abortion. As we continue to bask in the glow of our Fourth of July celebrations, we strongly urge you to uphold the rights to life and liberty which our Founding Fathers wisely asserted as most fundamental to our nation's existence."

Read the full letter here.

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