WASHINGTON (CNS) – U.S. Representative Andy Harris, R-Md., Urged Congress to pass the Conscience Protection Act.
It would amend the Public Health Service Act to prohibit government discrimination against health care providers who, on serious moral or religious grounds, strongly object to participation in medical procedures, namely the abortion.
Harris, a Catholic doctor, reintroduced the measure on Nov. 19 and is one of 100 Republican lawmakers supporting the bill.
Archbishop of Baltimore William E. Lori, chairman of the US Bishops’ Committee on Pro-Life Activities, approved the measure.
According to Harris, the bill is necessary because of various actions by the Biden administration, including its dismissal earlier this year of a government lawsuit against a Vermont hospital for violating nurses’ objections, for reasons moralities, to participate in abortion.
Harris said in a statement that earlier this year, Health and Human Services Secretary Xavier Becerra, who is also a Catholic, made a pledge to him and US Congressman Tom Cole, R-Okla., as members of the House of Appropriations. Committee, that “it would ensure the protection of the legal rights of conscience of providers, but unfortunately that did not happen”.
To illustrate his point, Harris described how the Justice Department in July “mysteriously dropped a lawsuit originally filed in 2020 against the University of Vermont Medical Center after being convicted of violating the law on consciousness repeatedly existing ”.
Under the Trump administration, the Justice Department filed a lawsuit against the medical center in December 2020, after the HHS Office for Civil Rights discovered it had forced a nurse to participate in an elective abortion.
Specifically, the HHS investigation found that the Vermont hospital had scheduled about 10 nurses with conscientious objections registered to assist with nearly 20 abortion procedures, “in clear violation of applicable law.”
Lawyers for the United States, as the plaintiff, cited the Church’s Amendment to the Public Health Services Act of 1973, which stated that the receipt by hospitals or individuals of federal funds in various programs health care did not require them to participate in abortion and sterilization procedures, and prohibited hospitals from willing or refusing to perform such procedures is a condition of employment.
“The US plaintiff has signaled the dismissal of this action,” said a July 30 filing by Jonathan Ophardt, the acting US attorney for Vermont, and Matthew Donnelly, an attorney in the Civil Rights Division of the United States. Department of Justice, based in Washington.
In an August letter to the United States Attorney General, Merrick Garland and Becerra, 84 House members – led by Harris and two other House Congressional Pro-Life Caucus co-chairs – called the dismissal of the lawsuit “profound. miscarriage of justice “.
They expressed deep concern over the “Biden administration’s coordinated decision to seek voluntary termination in lawsuit against University of Vermont Medical Center for knowingly, willfully, and repeatedly violating federal laws. on the protection of conscience “.
The chairmen of the religious freedom and pro-life committees of the American bishops also issued a statement at the time claiming that the Justice Department “was failing in its duty to apply the ordinary meaning of federal law” by willfully rejecting the law. trial.
In early November, Becerra sent congressional lawmakers a letter saying that even if this lawsuit were dismissed, the HHS would continue to investigate the matter. “The HHS remains committed to upholding all of its legal authorities, including laws that protect the exercise of conscience and religious freedom,” he said.
Reintroducing the Conscience Bill, Harris said, “Upholding the conscientious rights of health care providers should be of great interest to all Americans and of great importance to me as a physician, in particular. especially in light of the recent failures of the Biden administration. . “
Archbishop Lori said “it is difficult to imagine a more egregious violation of civil rights than being forced to give up one’s beliefs and participate in the end of an innocent human life.”
“The HHS found out that the University of Vermont Medical Center forced a nurse, against her known religious beliefs, to do just that. This is not only fundamentally wrong, but a direct violation of federal law. Yet the Department of Justice has voluntarily dismissed the case against UVMC, ”he said in a statement in response to the Harris Bill.
“We have already said that the need for the Protection of Conscience Act cannot be questioned. The need is more vital than ever, ”Archbishop Lori said. “The Ministry of Justice makes it clear that violations of conscience rights in health care can be violated with impunity.
US bishops “call on Congress to uphold the basic dignity of our nation’s healthcare workers and pass conscience protection law so that doctors and nurses can defend their own rights in court,” added the prelate.