Government forces Christian refugee aid groups to give abortion referrals
by Courtney Crandell
Posted 2/25/15, 08:40 am
The Obama administration has issued interim final rules that require faith-based organizations to offer abortion referrals for unaccompanied child refugees entering the United States. The new regulations may restrict faith-based organizations’ ability to provide refugee aid, Catholic and evangelical relief organizations said.
Issued by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ Office of Refugee Resettlement, the rules set official standards for responding to sexual abuse among children entering the United States without their parents. But by requiring faith-based organizations to offer or refer abortions, the Obama administration has violated the organizations’ conscience rights, said Susan Yoshihara, senior vice president at the Center for Family and Human Rights. Currently, six of the nine resettlement organizations in the United States are faith-based.
The administration opened the rules for public comment Dec. 24. The comment period ended Monday at midnight. Organizations receiving federal funding for refugee settlement have until June 24 to comply with the rules or lose their federal grants.
Administration officials claim they attempted to accommodate faith-based groups by allowing them to partner with organizations that do offer abortions, refer refugees to alternate organizations, or notify the federal government for those services. But those accommodations are insufficient, Yoshihara said.
“You should be able to settle these children without providing these services,” she said. “But that’s not going to be the case come June 24.”
The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) formally protested the rules Friday, joined by World Vision, National Association of Evangelicals, World Relief, and Catholic Relief Services.
The organizations stressed their commitment to their moral convictions, though hoping to resolve the conflict between the rules and their pro-life beliefs.
“In cases where pregnancy occurs, those of us participating in the program are willing to continue to provide healthcare access, as we have for years, in a manner consistent with our religious beliefs,” they said.
USCCB also requested that the government allow organizations to remain free to address sexuality in accordance with their moral convictions. The rules require staff training in a slew of sexuality definitions and identification of transgender and intersex children. They define gender as attitudes, feelings, and behaviors associated with a particular sex in a culture. The child’s sex is the biological status—male, female, or intersex. And gender identity means a child’s “sense of oneself as a male, female, or transgender,” the rules say.
The Obama administration has a history of alienating faith-based groups by violating conscience rights, Yoshihara said. This time, the rules were expedited, and the administration didn’t think they required congressional review.
“You’d think that you’d take the time to be careful, especially when it involves faith-based groups,” Yoshihara said. “This is just the last round being fired at faith-based groups.”