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Press Conference Highlights the Need for the Conscience Protection Act to Become Law now

by | Nov 8, 2017

By Mary Rodrigues Legislative Assistant, Department of Federal Legislation

(Left to right) Nurse Fe Vinoya, Rep. Chris Smith, NRLC Legislative Director Jennifer Popik, JD, and Gabriela Weigel, Legal Fellow at Robert Powell Center for Medical Ethics.

In the chill of an early November morning, three nurses gathered again at the foot of the capitol to share their chilling stories of having their employers require them to participate in abortions and to plead with Congress to support the Conscience Protection Act.

The press conference at Capitol Triangle was hosted by Representative Chris Smith (R-NJ), who shares a home state connection with Fe Vinoya, one of the “nurses of conscience” sharing her testimony. Fe again shared her story of how her employer required her and others to be trained to participate in the preparation, delivery, and disposal of babies.

Fe touched upon the importance of passing this act which, in her own words “clarifies existing conscience protections and provides a private right of action so that healthcare professionals like me do not have to rely upon whichever administration is in power to enforce law.”

Fe Vinoya stood by her fellow nurses, Sandra Mendoza and Cathy DeCarlo, who each had their own horror stories to share.

Cathy DeCarlo spoke to the betrayal she felt as a citizen of the United States that her freedom to practice her religion had been neglected.

“…I’m here today—to ask Congress to pass the Conscience Protection Act so that no other nurses or healthcare professionals are ever forced to go through what I did. I never thought in America I would be forced to violate my conscience in this way.”

Sandra Mendoza noted the importance of this issue and how the treatment she had received was unethical discrimination that no doctor or nurse should experience regardless of beliefs. She stated,

“While we may not all agree on abortion, I’d hope we can all agree that no doctor or and nurse should be forced out of employment on account of their faith and commitment to protecting life.” Vinoya added, “When the government denies or coerces healthcare providers’ conscience, it not only hurts patients and those of us committed to serving them, it also deters others from joining the profession.”

Rep. Smith showed his support for these nurses saying, “Healthcare is about saving life, eradicating disease, mitigating disability —not taking life. At the very least, health care providers should have the right to not be coerced into facilitating abortion… It’s time for us to finally pass this law to give health care providers this common sense, actionable recourse against discrimination…”

Several other lawmakers delivered remarks to encourage enactment of the Conscience Protection Act. Among them were Reps. Dan Lipinski (D-IL), Vicky Hartzler (R-MO), Andy Harris (R-MD), Keith Rothfus (R-PA), Brian Babin (R-TX), and Senator James Lankford, as well as Rep. Diane Black (R-TN), who sponsored the Conscience Protection Act.

Pro-life leaders in attendance including a team from National Right to Life. Federal Legislative Director, Jennifer Popik, J.D., and Karen Cross, Political Director, were present to show their support for these nurses and promote action for this issue.

In his final remarks Rep. Smith reiterated the importance and timeliness of this issue. “No one should be forced to participate in abortion. No one,” he said. “The House has passed this bill – President Trump has committed to sign this bill into law – this is the year to make it happen.”