(The following is a statement by the Catholic Bishops of New Jersey, expressing strong opposition to the proposed rescission of the federal regulations entitled 'Ensuring That Department of Health and Human Services Funds Do Not Support Coercive or Discriminatory Policies or Practices in Violation of Federal Law.")
We the Catholic Bishops of New Jersey, shepherds to over 3.5 million Catholics in seven dioceses, submit these comments to ask the federal government to retain the conscience regulations protecting the right of healthcare providers to serve patients without violating their moral and religious convictions.
These conscience rights are human rights-not rights created or granted by Congress. The federal government has a special responsibility to ensure that these human rights are fully protected.
We emphasize that freedom of conscience and religious liberty have been building blocks of American society since the nation's founding. Our nation respects conscientious objection for those opposed to war and we respect the objection of physicians opposed to taking part in capital punishment. We can do no less for those who oppose abortion.
The fact is that the current conscience regulations do not threaten anyone's access to healthcare. Rather, the regulations allow healthcare providers to serve the public without violating their consciences. As such, the regulations enhance access to healthcare, by ensuring continued participation of dedicated health professionals who will not be forced to violate their consciences.
Forcing health professionals to be involved in abortion activities against their will would irreparably damage our healing professions and undermine efforts for healthcare reform. Moreover, abortion cannot be seen as "standard" healthcare. Abortion is a direct attack not just on the health but on the life of the defenseless unborn, whose right to life must be protected.
Please register our opposition to the rescission of the current conscience regulations as proposed in the March 10, 2009 Federal Register.
(Editor's note: Patrick R. Brannigan, executive director of the New Jersey Catholic Conference, issued the statement on April 1, which was signed by Most Rev. John J. Myers, Archbishop of Newark; Most Rev. William C. Skurla, Bishop of the Byzantine Catholic Eparchy of Passaic; Most Rev. Joseph A. Galante, Bishop of Camden; Most Rev. Paul G. Bootkoski, Bishop of Metuchen; Most Rev. Arthur J. Serratelli, Bishop of Paterson; Most Rev. Edgar M. da Cunha, Auxiliary Bishop of Newark; Most Rev. John M. Smith, Bishop of Trenton; Most Rev. Thomas A. Donato, Auxiliary Bishop of Newark; Most Rev. John W. Flesey, Auxiliary Bishop of Newark; Most Rev. Manuel Aurelio Cruz, Auxiliary Bishop of Newark, Our Lady of Deliverance Syriac Catholic Diocese-currently vacant).