Healthcare conscience rights threaten women's jobs

By Deidre A. McQuade

Guest Colomunist

North Texas Catholic

9/19/2013

Cathy, Sr. Jane Marie, and Christine are three Catholic women whose freedom to work according to their faith is being severely threatened. In March they traveled to Washington, DC, urging Congress to pass the Health Care Conscience Rights Act (H.R. 940, S. 1204), which would protect their freedom of conscience. Now they need your help: read their stories below, watch and share the brief video on their stories, and stand in solidarity with them by contacting Congress today!

Catherina “Cathy” Cenzon-DeCarlo is an operating room nurse at a major hospital in New York City. In 2009, Cathy was forced to participate in a 22-week abortion against her clearly-stated objections. Cathy has suffered deep trauma from witnessing the abortion and accounting for all of the unborn child’s body parts afterwards. She says it was like “a horror film unfolding.” Cathy sued the hospital; but while her employer’s coercion was illegal, she had no recourse in the court. Since then, many other nurses and medical staff have told her she’s not alone. Contrary to their medical oath to “do no harm,” they, too, have been pressured to destroy life rather than preserve it. Cathy and her colleagues need the legal protection of the Health Care Conscience Rights Act to ensure that such discrimination never happens again.

Sr. Jane Marie Klein is the chair of the board for the non-profit Franciscan Alliance, a 13-hospital Catholic health care system in Indiana, Michigan, and Illinois, serving over four million patients each year regardless of their ability to pay. Under the guise of “preventive services for women,” this Administration is forcing nearly all employers to cover sterilization procedures, as well as contraception and abortifacient drugs and devices in their health plans at no cost to the employee – the so-called “HHS mandate.” The Franciscan Alliance has been a Catholic system for over 130 years, but does not qualify for an exemption as a “religious employer” according to the mandate’s extremely narrow definition. Soon they will face crippling fines for being faithful to Catholic teaching. The Franciscan Alliance is suing the federal government to protect their freedom of conscience. The Health Care Conscience Rights Act would properly define who qualifies as a religious employer so that much-needed medical facilities and charitable organizations will be able to continue serving our neediest neighbors.

Christine Ketterhagen is a co-owner and board member of a family-run company, Hercules Industries, in Denver, Colorado. They provide excellent benefits, and draw the line at payment for contraceptives and drugs like Ella marketed as “emergency” contraception that can actually cause early abortions, Because of the Administration’s mandate, Hercules will also face punishing fines if they refuse to comply — $162,500 per week! They, too, are suing the Administration so that they will not be forced to include objectionable coverage against their core values. If passed into law, the Health Care Conscience Rights Act will establish conscience rights protections for private entities that are not faith-based organizations.

Cathy, Sr. Jane Marie, and Christine tell their stories in our YouTube video: “Speak Up for Conscience Rights Today” (tinyurl.com/q8urzj8).  Watch it and then share the link with friends, colleagues, and family members. Finally, stand in solidarity with these brave women. Send your personalized email to Congress at www.usccb.org/conscience. It only takes a few minutes!

Once you’ve hit “send,” please invite others to watch the video and send their emails in. We’ve created several web banner ads that invite readers to join this effort to stand for conscience rights. Feel free to download and embed them (without alteration) on your blogs, websites, and online newsletters.

Thank you for speaking up for conscience rights today!

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Deirdre A. McQuade is Assistant Director for Policy & Communications at the Secretariat of Pro-Life Activities, U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops. To learn about the bishops’ advocacy on conscience rights, visit www.usccb.org/conscience.

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Cathy, Sr. Jane Marie, and Christine are three Catholic women whose freedom to work according to their faith is being severely threatened. In March they traveled to Washington, DC, urging Congress to pass the Health Care Conscience Rights Act (H.R. 940, S. 1204), which would protect their freedom of conscience. Now they need your help: read their stories below, watch and share the brief video on their stories, and stand in solidarity with them by contacting Congress today!

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