WASHINGTON – The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ (HHS) Office for Civil Rights announced Wednesday that it is taking corrective action against the University of Vermont Medical Center (UVMMC) and the State of California for violating federal conscience laws on abortion. The UVMMC violated the Church Amendment (enacted in 1973) by forcing a nurse to participate in an elective abortion against her religious beliefs and moral convictions.
The State of California is violating the Weldon Amendment by state insurance and health care laws which require health plans to cover elective abortions. Most employers, including even some churches, are unable to obtain self-funded health plans that exclude this objectionable coverage.
Cardinal Timothy Dolan of New York, chairman of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ (USCCB) Committee for Religious Liberty, and Archbishop Joseph F. Naumann of Kansas City in Kansas, chairman of the USCCB’s Committee on Pro-Life Activities, issued the following statement in response to this enforcement action:
“We strongly commend the HHS Office for Civil Rights (OCR) for taking concrete steps to enforce long-standing and fundamental civil rights laws. These bi-partisan laws recognize that it is an abhorrent violation of conscience rights to force someone to perform, pay for, or otherwise participate in an abortion against their beliefs. Sadly, violations of these laws have increased in recent years, so we are deeply grateful to OCR for taking these strong and just actions to enforce the law. And because the right of freedom of conscience does not diminish as administrations change, we hope that today’s actions to enforce these crucial federal conscience laws will be sustained until the violators come into compliance.”