The Obama Administration has a constitutional duty to enforce laws protecting religious freedom and the right of conscience, according to comments by Anthony Picarello and Michael Moses of the Office of General Counsel of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB).
The comments were filed with the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) March 23 in response to the proposed rescinding of an HHS regulation protecting the conscience rights of health care professionals.
Picarello and Moses cited the numerous laws enacted by Congress over thirty-five years — including the Church Amendment, the Coats-Snowe Amendment and the Weldon Amendment — aimed at protecting health care providers and professionals from being coerced into participating in abortions. They also emphasized the constitutional duty of the executive branch to "take care that the laws be faithfully executed," and to avoid contradicting or undercutting those laws.
The need for enforcement of these laws is also evident in the "growing hostility on the part of some professional organizations and advocacy groups to rights of conscience in health care," Picarello and Moses noted. They listed examples of recent statements and reports by the American Civil Liberties Union, NARAL Pro-Choice America and Physicians for Reproductive Choice and Health, and even state and local governments that were hostile toward conscience rights.
"Because the Administration holds itself out as one committed to a policy of ‘choice’ regarding abortion, the Administration cannot, consistent with that policy, remove the choice of nurses, doctors, clinics, or hospitals not to provide or facilitate abortions," Picarello and Moses said. They added that removing conscience protections for the purpose of increasing access to abortion would also be inconsistent with the stated policy of the Obama Administration to reduce the number of abortions.
The USCCB’s comments can be found in full online at http://www.usccb.org/conscienceprotection/resources.shtml