"Congress has another opportunity to protect health care providers who do not want to participate in abortions," said Cathy Cleaver Ruse, a spokeswoman for the bishops' Secretariat for Pro-Life Activities. She urged quick passage of the bill.
Last week, congressman Mike Bilirakis, a Florida Republican, reintroduced the bipartisan Abortion Non-Discrimination Act in the U.S. House of Representatives. The bill had previously passed the House in 2002.
A similar bill in the Senate, introduced by Judd Gregg, a New Hampshire Republican, also enjoys bipartisan sponsorship. This legislation would prohibit governmental discrimination against health care providers who decline to be involved in abortion.
This legislation responds to the coordinated effort to force health care providers -- including hospitals, insurance providers, and outpatient clinics -- to provide, pay for, and make referrals for abortion.
Current federal law already protects "health care entities" from having to perform or provide for abortions. But it has been interpreted to protect only individual physicians and training programs, leaving hospitals, health plans, nurses, and other health care participants without protection, the bishops' conference said.
"The irony here cannot be ignored," spokeswoman Ruse noted. "The same abortion advocates who promote a 'right to choose' deny the right of health care providers to choose not to perform abortion."