USCCB Finds Weakening of Health Care Conscience Rule a ‘Disappointment’

Affirms Some Positive Elements

USCCB News Release 11-036
February 18, 2011

United States Conference of Catholic Bishops

WASHINGTON (February 18, 2011)—The Obama administration’s final rule rescinding important elements of a federal regulation protecting the conscience rights of health care providers is a disappointment, but there are also reasons for hope, said Deirdre McQuade of the Pro-Life Secretariat of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB).

“The Administration’s action today is cause for disappointment, but also offers reasons for hope regarding an emerging consensus in Washington on the need for clear conscience protections for health care providers,” said McQuade.

“It is very disappointing that the Administration has chosen to eliminate much of the existing regulation on conscience issued in December 2008. Among other things, the final rule issued today eliminates important clarifications that would have helped in interpreting and enforcing longstanding federal statutes protecting the conscience rights of health care providers. It also eliminates a regulatory requirement that recipients of federal funds certify compliance with those statutes.

“However, it is welcome news that the Administration says it will take initiative to increase awareness of the conscience statutes, work to ensure compliance with them, and require that government grants make clear that compliance is required. We look forward to working with the Administration and Congress to ensure that these endeavors are carried out, so providers receive the full conscience protection they are due.

“We also hope that the Administration will place its full support behind efforts in Congress to clarify conscience protections and make them more secure, by endorsing such initiatives as the Protect Life Act (H.R. 358), the No Taxpayer Funding for Abortion Act (H.R. 3), and the Abortion Non-Discrimination Act (H.R. 361).”

  • Past USCCB letters supporting the Bush administration regulation, and opposing efforts to rescind it.

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