Cardinal George of Chicago has issued a statement calling for continued protection of the conscience rights of medical personnel and institutions who object to being involved with abortion.  Pres. Obama wants to start stripping away this protection by rescinding regulations recently implemented by George Bush.

Obviously, this would affect many Catholic medical workers and hospitals.  Many of these people have already put themselves on the line for their Catholic pro-life practices.  In our society, it takes a true act of courage and personal integrity for a doctor or other health-care provider to stand by his or her values when they are so counter-cultural and make lots of people resentful or angry.  We need to support them at all times, but right now more than ever.

I also think that anybody who thinks it would stop with pro-life medical workers is fooling themselves.  Why should it stop there?  If you can strip away protections of conscience rights, why not just scrap conscience rights altogether?  Is anything worth having that’s not worth protecting?  And if that succeeds with one group of people in society, why not impose it on everybody in society?

The U.S. Dept. of Health and Human Services is accepting public comment on this proposed rescinding of conscience rights protection through 9 April 2009.  Here is an easy, fast way to send a comment. You can send the message they provide, which is very good, or you can write your own.

Here is a video of the cardinal’s statement:

And here is the text of the statement:

Hello. I am Cardinal Francis George, Archbishop of Chicago and President of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops. I’d like to take a moment to speak about two principles or ideas that have been basic to life in our country: religious liberty and the freedom of personal conscience.

On Friday afternoon, February 27, the Obama Administration placed on a federal website the news that it intends to remove a conscience protection rule for the Department of Health and Human Services. That rule is one part of the range of legal protections for health care workers – for doctors, nurses and others – who have objections in conscience to being involved in abortion and other killing procedures that are against how they live their faith I God.

As Catholic bishops and American citizens, we are deeply concerned that such an action on the government’s part would be the first step in moving our country from democracy to despotism. Respect for personal conscience and freedom of religion as such ensures our basic freedom from government oppression. No government should come between an individual person and God – that’s what America is supposed to be about. This is the true common ground for us as Americans. We therefore need legal protection for freedom of conscience and of religion – including freedom for religious health care institutions to be true to themselves.

Conscientious objection against many actions is a part of our life. We have a conscientious objection against war for those who cannot fight, even though it’s good to defend your country. We have a conscientious objection for doctors against being involved in administering the death penalty. Why shouldn’t our government and our legal system permit conscientious objection to a morally bad action, the killing of babies in their mother’s womb? People understand what really happens in an abortion and in related procedures – a living member of the human family is killed – that’s what it’s all about – and no one should be forced by the government to act as though he or she were blind to this reality.

I ask you please to let the government know that you want conscience protections to remain strongly in place. In particular, let the Department of Health and Human Services in Washington know that you stand for the protection of conscience, especially now for those who provide the health care services so necessary for a good society. Thank you and God bless you.

Please speak up!  And, as always, pray, fast, offer acts of penance and reparation.  We Catholics can do things that your typical activist can’t–we can wage spiritual warfare!  And we must do so to the best and fullest of our ability.  For our own sakes, and for the sakes of our nation and world.