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U.S. Bishops "deeply disappointed" over Congress' exclusion of Conscience Protection Act

U.S. Catholic Bishops’ Chairmen deeply disappointed by Congress’ failure to enact Conscience Protection Act (March 22):
Cardinal Timothy M. Dolan of New York, chair of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops' (USCCB) Committee on Pro-Life Activities, and Archbishop Joseph E. Kurtz of Louisville, chair of the USCCB's Committee for Religious Liberty, reacted with deep disappointment to the news that a very modest but critical piece of legislation—the Conscience Protection Act—was not included in the 2018 appropriations bill just released by Congress.
Visit the USCCB website to read the full statement. 

Background on advocacy around the Conscience Protection Act

Nurses and other health care providers and institutions are being forced to choose between participation in abortions or leaving health care altogether. Leading up to passage of the omnibus bill which took place March 22, the U.S. Bishops had asked the faithful to flood Congress with calls and emails to urge inclusion of the Conscience Protection Act (CPA). 

Read more

The message the Bishops hoped to relay was that enacting the Conscience Protection Act is urgently needed to protect Americans from being forced to violate their deeply held convictions about respect for human life.

A list of state representatives and senators with contact information follows:

  • Representative Justin Amash  (Send email)
    Phone: 202-225-3831 (Washington D.C. office)
    616-451-8383 (Grand Rapids office)
  • Representative Jack Bergman (Send email)
    Phone: 202-225-4735 (Washington D.C. office)
  • Representative Bill Huizenga (Send email)
    Phone: 202-225-4401 (Washington D.C. office)
    616-414-5516 (Grand Haven office)
    616-570-0917 (Grandville office)
  • Representative John Moolenaar (Send email)
    Phone: 202-225-3561 (Washington D.C. office)
    231-942-5070 (Cadillac office)
    989-631-2552 (Midland office)
  • Senator Gary Peters (Send email)
    Phone: 202-224-6221 (Washington D.C. office)
    616-233-9150 (Grand Rapids office)
  • Senator Debbie Stabenow (Send email)
    Phone: 202-224-4822 (Washington D.C. office)
    616-975-0052 (Grand Rapids office)
  • Not sure of your congressional district or who your representative is? Visit Find Your Representative and enter your ZIP code to identify your congressional district.

Also discover:

Background on the Conscience Protection Act

In 2016, the U.S. Bishops commended members of the House of Representatives for passing the Conscience Protection Act of 2016 (S. 304) on July 13 in a 245-182 vote; they then called on Congress to enact the bill which did not happen.
(Read release)
The Conscience Protection Act of 2017 was introduced in January 2017 in both the House and the Senate. That legislation is identical to CPA 2016 passed in the House in July 2016. On Feb. 8, 2017 Cardinal Timothy M. Dolan and Archbishop William E. Lori – as chairmen of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ Committee on Pro-Life Activities and Ad Hoc Committee for Religious Liberty, respectively – wrote to both Houses of the United States Congress urging support for the Conscience Protection Act of 2017 (H.R. 644, S. 301). However, last year’s bill also was never enacted into law.
(Read release)
In 2018, the hope for enacting CPA hinged on its inclusion in the must-pass Fiscal Year (FY) 2018 appropriations bill. While the House included CPA in its Omnibus Appropriations Act last September, the Senate did not pass its appropriations bills, which then required Congress to pass several short-term Continuing Resolutions (CR) to fund the government. The latest CR will expire on March 23rd and it is expected that a final FY 2018 appropriations bill will be voted on prior to that deadline. 

What's been happening?

In 2014, California started forcing almost all health plans in the state to cover elective abortions, even late-term abortions. Religious employers in California that offer group health plans to their employees filed an objection with the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), which has oversight responsibility for enforcing federal conscience laws. 
On June 21, HHS declared, contrary to the plain meaning of current federal law that the California Department of Managed Health Care can continue to force all health plans under its jurisdiction to cover elective abortions. (Read USCCB Response to California Elective Abortion Mandate)
At least one other state, New York, has already followed California’s lead and this action by the HHS will only prompt more states to follow suit.  

What does the Conscience Protection Act do?

Several churches and other religious organizations had filed complaints with the HHS Office for Civil Rights asserting that California's reinterpretation of state law violated the federal Weldon Amendment prohibiting discrimination by states against health insurance plans that do not cover abortion. The Conscience Protection Act would have provided specific relief for those who decline to participate in abortion rather than relying solely upon HHS to defend their rights.
The Conscience Protection Act is intended to protect health care providers from being forced to pay for or participate in abortions, and allow victims of discrimination a “right of action” to defend their rights in court. For example, nurses threatened with loss of their jobs unless they assist in abortions have found they have no right to go to court to see the law enforced. Congress should reaffirm a principle that has long enjoyed broad bipartisan support: Government should not force hospitals, doctors, nurses and other providers to stop offering much-needed health care because they cannot in good conscience participate in destroying a human life. (What is Conscience Protection?

What are our bishops saying?

The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) have been following this issue and maintaining communication with the faithful concerning CPA. They have called all along for prayer, action and a federal legislative remedy.
For additional information and videos featuring nurses who were forced by their employers to choose between their jobs and participating in abortions visit

Additional action

Follow @HumanLifeAction and @GRDiocese​ on Twitter and retweet the posts. Repost the link to this alert on your Facebook page or other social media channels