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United States Conference of Catholic Bishops

United States Conference of Catholic Bishops

Life Issues Forum: In The Direction of Life

By Chelsy Gomez
Recently we observed the 45th anniversary of the Supreme Court's Roe v. Wade ruling, which legalized abortion throughout the United States. As in past years, hundreds of thousands gathered in Washington to pray, to march, to lobby and to work for the end to abortion. We mourn the lives that have been lost in 45 years of legalized abortion. At the same time, we look to the future with hope for those that might be saved.
Recent developments offer great promise in protecting the most vulnerable among us.
On Jan. 18, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services announced the formation of a new Conscience and Religious Freedom Division within its Office of Civil Rights. The new division more vigorously will enforce existing laws that protect the conscience rights and religious freedom of health care providers like Cathy DeCarlo, who was forced to participate in an abortion.
In recent years, these violations to federal laws have been ignored. Cardinal Timothy M. Dolan and Archbishop Joseph E. Kurtz, as U.S. Catholic Conference chairmen, issued a joint statement applauding the new initiative "for its significant actions to protect conscience rights and religious freedom."
They continued, "For more than forty years—dating back to the Church amendment of 1973—Congress has enacted federal laws protecting rights of conscience in health care. We are grateful that HHS is taking seriously its charge to protect these fundamental civil rights through formation of a new division dedicated to protecting conscience rights and religious freedom."
On Jan. 19, President Donald Trump, joined by Vice President Mike Pence, addressed those participating in the March for Life via a live satellite rally at the White House Rose Garden, pledging always to defend the right to life.
On the same day, the administration also rescinded the Obama Administration's 2016 guidance from the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services that prevented states from withholding Medicaid funding from family planning providers that perform abortions. This action returns to the states the ability to direct these federal funds to institutions that do not provide abortion, allowing for pro-life advancements at the state level.
Also on Jan. 19, the House of Representatives passed the Born-Alive Abortion Survivors Protection Act with a bipartisan vote. This bill builds on the Born-Alive Infants Protection Act by offering mechanisms of enforcement and accountability. The Born-Alive Abortion Survivors Protection Act would require any health care practitioner present when a child is born alive after an abortion to provide the same degree of care as would be given to any other child born at the same gestational age.
Those not complying with these guidelines would face penalties. Cardinal Dolan praised this action and encouraged the Senate to follow suit.
These developments may seem small in comparison to 45 years of legalized abortion; however, they demonstrate that we are continuing to make significant progress. These advances increase conscience protections, draw attention to the humanity of precious life in the womb, limit funding for abortion and advance our ultimate objective of making abortion unthinkable.
Now is not the time to despair but to redouble and renew our commitment to the Gospel of Life. Our sustained and collaborative efforts can continue to advance pro-life legislation.
As we remember and mourn all whose lives have been lost or wounded through the scourge of Roe, we look to tomorrow with hope and joy because we know that Christ has already conquered death. May He make His truth new in our hearts, that we may continue to move our country and our culture in the direction of cherishing all human life.
Chelsy Gomez is program associate for the Secretariat of Pro-Life Activities, U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops. To sign up for pro-life action alerts, visit humanlifeaction.org/signup.

  • Published in Nation

Life Issues Forum: Going To Battle Against Assisted Suicide

By Greg Schleppenbach

The campaign to legalize doctor-prescribed suicide wisely has been rejected by most policymakers in our society. Most people, regardless of religious affiliation, know that suicide is a terrible tragedy, one that a compassionate society should work to prevent. They realize that allowing doctors to prescribe the means for any of their patients to kill themselves is a corruption of the healing art.

But assisted suicide proponents like the deceptively-named group "Compassion & Choices" have renewed their aggressive nationwide campaign through legislation, litigation and public advertising, targeting states they see as most susceptible to their message. So the battle against doctor-assisted suicide continues to rage on many fronts.

In 1994, Oregon became the first state to legalize doctor-assisted suicide. The assisted-suicide campaign has since advanced to legalize the deadly practice in Washington, Vermont, California, Colorado and the District of Columbia. Montana's highest court, while not officially legalizing the practice, suggested in 2009 that it could be allowed under certain circumstances.

Assisted suicide advocates got similar legislation introduced in 27 states this year. Thankfully, many of these bills have been, or likely will be, defeated. But several states still face serious threats, including Hawaii, Maine, New York and New Jersey. They are also turning to courts to overturn laws banning the practice, with lawsuits pending in New York, Hawaii and Massachusetts.

The U.S. Congress was drawn into the debate when the Washington, D.C., City Council passed a law legalizing assisted suicide in 2016. Our Constitution gives Congress ultimate control over D.C. laws and efforts to nullify are underway. But since Congress has not addressed assisted suicide for many years, members need basic education from constituents about why assisted suicide is dangerous for patients and their families.

Another battleground is in the medical profession itself. Long-held opposition to assisted suicide by medical associations has been essential to preserving laws against the practice. That is why C&C is infiltrating medical associations and urging them to abandon opposition and adopt a position of neutrality. The move to neutrality by medical associations in Oregon, Vermont and California helped pave the way for legalization of assisted suicide in those states. And now the American Medical Association is considering whether to change its decades-long position against assisted suicide to one of neutrality.

One way to counter the C&C effort is by asking our doctors their position on assisted suicide. If they oppose it, thank them for their stance and urge them to speak out against the practice with their medical associations, their state legislature and with Congress. If the answer is "support," try to change their minds — and if they won't, find a new doctor, letting your former doctor know why you left.

Euphemistic terms like "aid in dying," "compassion" and "choice" cloak the reality that assisted suicide is a deadly act: doctors prescribing a lethal drug for suicide by overdose. Far from fostering compassion or choice, assisted suicide fosters discrimination by creating two classes of people: those whose suicides we work hard to prevent and those whose suicides we assist.

Evidence shows that legalizing assisted suicide can reduce access to quality end-of-life care, put pressure on patients and their families and open them up to abuses from insurance companies, among many other dangers. Your help is needed to expose these and other dangers. Equip yourself with fact sheets, videos and other resources available at usccb.org/toliveeachday, patientsrightscouncil.org. and patientsrightsaction.org.

Greg Schleppenbach is associate director for the Secretariat of Pro-Life Activities, U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops.

To read the U.S. bishops' 2011 policy statement on assisted suicide and related resources, visit usccb.org/toliveeachday.

  • Published in Diocesan

Life Issues Forum: No one should be forced to participate in abortion

In early November, three brave nurses came to Washington, D.C., to tell their disturbing stories of coercion to members of Congress and the public—about how they were forced to choose between participating in abortion and losing their jobs.

Cathy DeCarlo came to the U.S. from the Philippines in 2001 to advance her nursing career. In 2004, the New York City hospital that hired her assured her that she would never have to compromise her conscience by participating in an abortion. But on May 24, 2009, the hospital tricked DeCarlo into serving a patient having a late-term abortion. If she didn't assist, she would lose her nursing license, destroying her career.

"I'll never forget that day as I watched in horror as the doctor dismembered and removed the baby's bloody limbs, and then I had to account for all the pieces," DeCarlo said at a press conference outside the U.S. Capitol. "I still have nightmares about that day."

Fe Vinoya is a nurse in a same-day surgery unit in New Jersey where she and twelve other nurses were told they had to be trained to assist in abortions. Their jobs were threatened if they refused. "After years of working as a critical care and emergency room nurse, I never imagined that the hospital I worked for would force me to choose between taking the life of an unborn child and losing my job," Fe said. "[W]hen the government denies or coerces healthcare providers' conscience[s], it not only hurts patients and those of us committed to serving them, it also deters others from joining the profession," Fe added.

The third nurse, Sandra Mendoza, worked for eighteen years in pediatrics at the Winnebago County Health Department in Rockford, Ilinois. In 2015, she was informed that her clinic was being merged with women's health services and, consequently, all nurses would have to be cross-trained in abortion referrals and abortion-causing drugs. When Mendoza objected, she was told that if she didn't participate, she could no longer work at the health department.

"Like many nurses I know… I view nursing as more than just a job, but a calling and a vocation," Mendoza said. "I'm called to protect life not destroy it. I'm called to serve others and do no harm, as the Hippocratic Oath I took states. While we may not all agree on abortion, I'd hope we can all agree that no doctor or and nurse should be forced out of employment on account of their faith and commitment to protecting life."

In addition to medical providers and trainees being forced to participate in abortion, churches and others who oppose abortion are being forced to provide insurance coverage for it in a growing number of states. Current federal conscience protection laws are failing to prevent such discrimination due to loopholes and insufficient enforcement mechanisms. This can be solved, but your help is needed.

The Conscience Protection Act (H.R. 644/S. 301) fixes those loopholes and provides victims of discrimination with the ability to defend their rights in court. Contact Congress now through www.humanlifeaction.org. . . to urge your representatives to enact the Conscience Protection Act as part of its Fiscal Year 2018 appropriations bill. Finally, follow and share the #StandWithNurses social media campaign advocating for nurses like these three.

Greg Schleppenbach is the associate director of the Secretariat of Pro-Life Activities of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops. For more information on the bishops' pro-life activities, visit usccb.org/prolife.

Thanksgiving Day Appeal for Protection of the Vulnerable

Cardinal Daniel N. DiNardo of Galveston-Houston, president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB), offers a Thanksgiving Day message to the nation with special gratitude for the gift of immigrants and refugees. 

Full statement follows:

“As we do every year, we will pause this coming Thursday to thank God for the many blessings we enjoy in the United States. My brother bishops and I, gathered last week in Baltimore, were attentive in a special way to those who are often excluded from this great abundance—the poor, the sick, the addicted, the unborn, the unemployed, and especially migrants and refugees.

My brothers expressed a shared and ever-greater sense of alarm—and urgency to act—in the face of policies that seemed unthinkable only a short time ago: the deportation of Dreamers, young hard-working people who should be the lowest priority for deportation; the anxiety and uncertainty of those with Temporary Protected Status from countries like Haiti, El Salvador, and Honduras, which are still recovering from natural disasters and remain ill-equipped to humanely receive and integrate them; and an unprecedented reduction in the number of people we will welcome this year into our country who seek refuge from the ravages of war and religious persecution in their countries of origin. 

One common feature of all these developments is their tendency to tear apart the family, the fundamental building block of our, or any, society. These threats to so many vulnerable immigrant and refugee families must end now. My brothers have urged me to speak out on their behalf to urge the immediate passage—and signature—of legislation that would alleviate these immediate threats to these families.

Another common feature of these policies is that they are symptoms of an immigration system that is profoundly broken and requires comprehensive reform. This is a longer-term goal, one that the bishops have advocated for decades to achieve, and one that must never be overlooked. Only by complete reform will we have the hope of achieving the common goals of welcoming the most vulnerable, ensuring due process and humane treatment, protecting national security, and respecting the rule of law. We are committed to such reforms and will continue to call for them.

So this year, I give thanks for the gift and contributions of immigrants and refugees to our great nation. I also pray that next year, families now under threat will not be broken and dispersed, but instead will be united in joy around their tables, giving thanks for all the blessings our nation has to offer. 

Have a Happy Thanksgiving all!”
  • Published in Nation
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