2021testimonylist - Maryland Catholic Conference

SB 737 - Comprehensive Conservation Finance Act

Position: Support

Committee: House Transportation and Environment Committee

The Maryland Catholic Conference (“Conference”) represents the public policy interests of the three Roman Catholic (arch) dioceses serving Maryland: the Archdiocese of Baltimore, the Archdiocese of Washington, and the Diocese of Wilmington.

Senate Bill 737 makes changes to abroad variety of existing programs related to environmental conservation and natural resources management and expands opportunities for agencies to obtain private investment and financing for State environmental projects, including conservation efforts, restoration projects, and the installation and repair of green and blue infrastructure. The bill also alters existing and establishes new state policies for several related programs and establishes a new workgroup, commission, and task force.

In his encyclical, On Care for Our Common Home (Laudato Si'), Pope Francis tells us, “Whenever these questions are raised, some react by accusing others of irrationally attempting to stand in the way of progress and human development. But we need to grow in the conviction that a decrease in the pace of production and consumption can at times give rise to another form of progress and development. Efforts to promote a sustainable use of natural resources are not a waste of money, but rather an investment capable of providing other economic benefits in the medium term…We know how unsustainable is the behavior of those who constantly consume and destroy, while others are not yet able to live in a way worthy of their human dignity.”

Senate Bill 737 aims to address the much needed investment in conservation policies and projects to be set to sustain and achieve a healthy global ecosystem. We encourage discussion around the components and goals outlined in this legislation and hope they are a catalyst for positive ecological outcomes.

The Conference appreciates your consideration and, for these reasons, respectfully requests a favorable report on Senate Bill 737.

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HB 846 - Public Health – Abortions – Prenatal Diagnosis of Down Syndrome (Down Syndrome Dignity Act)

Position: Support

Committee: House Health and Government Operations Committee

The Maryland Catholic Conference represents the public policy interests of the three Roman Catholic (arch)dioceses serving Maryland: the Archdiocese of Baltimore, the Archdiocese of Washington, and the Diocese of Wilmington, which together encompass over one million Marylanders.

House Bill 846 prohibits abortion when the decision is made to terminate because the fetus has a prenatal diagnosis of Down syndrome.

Down syndrome is the most common chromosomal condition, affecting one out of every 700 pregnancies in the US. People with Down syndrome may face additional challenges in life. But most people with Down syndrome lead healthy, interdependent lives and their life expectancy has increased from 25 in 1983 to 60 today.[1]

The Conference supports HB 846 because it would prohibit the discriminatory practice of permitting abortion based solely on one’s disability or characteristics. Weighted studies find 67% of pregnancies with Down syndrome are terminated in the US.[2] The Catholic Church firmly believes in the dignity of human life from natural conception to natural death, including that of all unborn children.

It is for these reasons that the Maryland Catholic Conference asks for a favorable report for HB 846. Thank you for your consideration.

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[1] National Down Syndrome Society

[2] Natoli et.al, Prenatal Diagnosis, Feb. 2012.

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HB 1198 - Public Health – Abortion – Drug–Induced Abortions

Position: Support

Committee: House Health and Government Operations Committee

The Maryland Catholic Conference represents the public policy interests of the three Roman Catholic (arch)dioceses serving Maryland: the Archdiocese of Baltimore, the Archdiocese of Washington, and the Diocese of Wilmington, which together encompass over one million Marylanders.

House Bill 1198 would prohibit non-physicians from providing drug-induced abortion, establish a rigorous informed consent policy for women, require follow-ups by physicians, provide abortion pill reversal information to women, and require the Maryland Department of Health to track the utilization and procedure of drug-induced abortion.
Women deserve to have basic, relevant and medically appropriate information to make a truly informed decision regarding an abortion.

The Maryland Catholic Conference works to foster a culture of life by advocating for laws that uphold the dignity of the human person and that assist pregnant women in need, while working to ensure the State sets and enforces safe standards for women’s health care.

It is for these reasons that the Maryland Catholic Conference respectfully urges a favorable report for HB 1198. Thank you for your consideration.

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HB 1109 - Health - Abortion – Ultrasound and Waiting Period

Position: Support

Committee: House Health and Government Operations Committee

The Maryland Catholic Conference offers this testimony in SUPPORT of House Bill 1109. The Catholic Conference represents the public policy interests of the three (arch)dioceses serving Maryland: the Archdioceses of Baltimore and Washington and the Diocese of Wilmington, which together encompass over one million Marylanders.

House Bill 1109 would prohibit a physician from performing or inducing an abortion on a pregnant woman within 24 hours after the woman receives certain ultrasound imaging. Giving a woman the ability, if she chooses, to see an ultrasound image, hear the fetal heartbeat, and have time to consider this information, is a needed process for a woman to make an informed decision.

Women deserve to have basic, relevant and medically appropriate information as well as the time to evaluate their options during pregnancy. To deny women the choice of seeing an ultrasound image or hearing a fetal heartbeat would be denying them vital information that they need to make a truly informed decision regarding an abortion. Please give all women the chance to make a truly informed decision based on complete and accurate information.

For these reasons, we urge a favorable report on House Bill 1109.

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HB 1112 - Public Health - Maternal and Child Mortality - Review and Perinatal Hospice Services

Position: Support

Committee: House Health and Government Operations Committee

The Maryland Catholic Conference represents the public policy interests of the three Roman Catholic (arch)dioceses serving Maryland: the Archdiocese of Baltimore, the Archdiocese of Washington, and the Diocese of Wilmington, which together encompass over one million Marylanders.

House Bill 1112 would ensure the State Department of Health maintains a list of perinatal hospice programs on its website and creates a printable brochure for physicians and nurse practitioners to share with families who want the information.

Perinatal hospice and palliative care is specialized care provided to families when their baby is given a life-limiting diagnosis in utero and may have just days or hours to live after birth. From the time of diagnosis through delivery, the multidisciplinary perinatal hospice team provides physical, emotional and spiritual support. They empower families to process the diagnosis, find moments of meaning making, welcome their baby and say goodbye. This care is widely accepted by medical professionals, including by the American College of Obstetricians, Society for Maternal-Fetal Medicine and the American Academy of Pediatrics.[1]

Maryland parents deserve to know all of their options, presented in a sensitive manner, when given a life-limiting diagnosis in utero. Yet few Maryland families receive information about perinatal hospice or are treated insensitively and feel abandoned and without support at this difficult time. Providing this information respects the autonomy, choice, and decision making of parents.

Pope Francis, in an address to perinatal hospice professionals, called perinatal comfort care “an approach to care that humanizes medicine,” where “parents are helped to process their mourning and to comprehend it.”[2] Perinatal hospice emphasizes dignity, comfort, and a peaceful experience for the whole family. Families are encouraged to collect remembrances like photos and handprints and given the gift of time with their baby. Ultimately, research shows 98% of parents who used perinatal hospice said they had no regrets and cherished the experience they had to love, hold and meet their baby for the duration of their life, no matter how brief.[3]

Families deserve to have this information. It is for these reasons that the Maryland Catholic Conference respectfully urges a favorable report for HB 1112. Thank you for your consideration.

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[1] “Perinatal Palliative Care,” Obstetrics & Gynecology September 2019, Vol. 134,3

[2] Pope Francis, Address to Yes to Life Conference, 25 May 2019

[3] Wool, et.al. “’I Would Do It All Over Again’: Cherishing Time and the Absence of Regret in Continuing a Pregnancy after a Life-Limiting Diagnosis” Journal of Clinical Ethics, Fall 2018 Vol. 29,3

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HB 1167 - Maryland Nondiscrimination in Health Care Coverage Act

Position: Support with amendments

Committee: House Health and Government Operations Committee

The Maryland Catholic Conference represents the public policy interests of the three Roman Catholic (arch)dioceses serving Maryland: the Archdiocese of Baltimore, the Archdiocese of Washington, and the Diocese of Wilmington, which together encompass over one million Marylanders.

House Bill 1167 seeks to address the health disparity in the standard of care given to people with disabilities. The discrimination against people with disabilities in reception of appropriate health care has been a growing concern throughout the world following the widely publicized cases of Charlie Gard and Alfie Evans in the UK.

In 2019, the National Council on Disability issued reports from a multi-year review finding that people with physical, intellectual or psychiatric disabilities are more likely to be denied organ transplantation even when there is no medical contraindication, are less likely to receive life-saving or sustaining treatment under the Quality Adjusted Life Years metric, and their care is more likely to be viewed as futile.1

This concern has been brought into full relief during the COVID-19 pandemic. Last year, hospitals in both the UK and in Oregon placed blanket Do Not Resuscitate orders on people with intellectual disabilities – including people with Down syndrome.2 The Oregon hospitals were not rationing health care but still required the DNRs, claiming people with intellectual disabilities had “low quality of life”.3 Similarly, Michael Hixson, a disabled black man in Texas, was denied treatment for COVID-19 by his doctors because he was a quadriplegic with little “quality of life.” The hospital assumed guardianship of Mr. Hixson, denied the wishes of his wife, refused him a breathing tube and nutrition, and he died six days later.4

In the last year, the Department of Health and Human Services Office of Civil Rights had to intervene to revise crisis standards of care for four health care systems in North Carolina, North and Southwest Texas, and the Indian Health System to ensure the elderly and disabled were not excluded from treatment or reception of ventilators. Following these high-profile interventions, the Office of Civil Rights began to study discrimination in health care this January, particularly when it comes to ventilator rationing, life-saving care, and the use of discriminatory metrics such as life expectancy, resource intensity, and duration of need which most impact the disabled.5

The Catholic Church teaches that “every person is obliged to use ordinary means to preserve his or her health,” so long as it provides a “reasonable hope of benefit without imposing excessive risks and burdens”.6 Excluding people with disabilities from receiving appropriate health care is of grave concern.

Maryland does not have a crisis standard of care across the state, meaning treatment can be applied inequitably. In other states, these standards vary widely.7 Due to the complex nature of this topic and the many stakeholders involved, including hospital administrations, physicians, ethicists, and advocates for the elderly and the disability community, we believe this issue would best be addressed by a working group of the Maryland General Assembly to study discrimination against the elderly and people with disabilities in healthcare settings.

For these reasons, we recommend striking the text of this bill and replacing it with a working group. We would encourage such a working group to include four representatives of private, not-for-profit hospitals in the state and engage the expertise of Catholic healthcare in this important discussion.

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1 National Council on Disability, Bioethics and Disability Report Series 2019
2 The Guardian, “Fury at ‘do not resuscitate’ notices given to Covid patients with learning disabilities” 13 Feb 2021
3 NPR, “Oregon Hospitals Didn't Have Shortages. So Why Were Disabled People Denied Care?” 21 Dec 2021
4 NPR, “One Man's COVID-19 Death Raises The Worst Fears Of Many People With Disabilities” 31 July 2021
5 HHS Office of Civil Rights, “OCR Seeks Information on Addressing Disability Discrimination in Health Care and Child Welfare Contexts” 15 Jan 2021
6 USCCB, “Ethical and Religious Directives for Catholic Health Care Services,” 6th ed. 2019
7 Manchada et.al., “Crisis Standards of Care in the USA: A Systematic Review and Implications for Equity Amidst COVID-19,” Journal of racial and ethnic health disparities, 1–13. 13 Aug 2020

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HB 448 - State Government – Legal and Employee Holiday – Juneteenth National Freedom Day

Position: Support

Committee: House Health and Government Operations Committee

The Maryland Catholic Conference represents the mutual public policy interests of the three (arch)dioceses serving the state of Maryland, including the Archdiocese of Baltimore, the Archdiocese of Washington, and the Diocese of Wilmington. We offer this testimony in support of House Bill 448 which would establish Juneteenth National Freedom Day as a State legal holiday and a State employee holiday.

Juneteenth has come to symbolize for many African Americans the triumph of the human spirit over the cruelty of slavery and is celebrated annually in more than 205 cities and commemorated in 47 states. Elevating this historic and significant event to a State legal holiday will give Marylanders the opportunity to acknowledge and honor a major milestone in our country’s history. The United States Conference of Catholic Bishops have reminded us in their recent pastoral letter on racism, Open Wide Our Hearts: The Enduring Call to Love Again, that “The evil of racism festers in part because, as a nation, there has been very limited formal acknowledgement of the harm done to so many, no moment of atonement, no national process of reconciliation and, all too often a neglect of our history. Many of our institutions still harbor, and too many of our laws still sanction, practices that deny justice and equal access to certain groups of people. God demands more from us.”

Having Juneteenth National Freedom Day recognized as a State legal holiday creates opportunities for events to happen throughout the State to help educate Marylanders on the significance of this day while at the same time providing an environment for remembrance and healing.

For these reasons, we respectfully urge a favorable report on House Bill 448.

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HB 1245 - Guaranteed Access Grant and Next Generation Scholars of Maryland – Alterations

Position: Support

Committee: House Appropriations Committee

The Maryland Catholic Conference offers this testimony in SUPPORT of House Bill 1245. The Conference represents the public policy interests of the three (arch)dioceses serving Maryland, the Archdioceses of Baltimore and Washington and the Diocese of Wilmington, which together encompass over one million Marylanders.

House Bill 1245 would provide for the continuation of the Next Generation Scholars Program, a program supported by the Conference when rebranded in 2016. The Program provides grants to nonprofit organizations to promote higher education and college and career awareness. Additionally, the Guaranteed Access Grant Program provides eligible 7th and 8th grade students access to such programs and services that assist with formulating high school and college graduation plans, summer internships, career interest assessments, mentoring and college campus visits. Both public and nonpublic school students are eligible to participate in the Guaranteed Access Grant Program, so long as they meet the requirements.

The Catholic Conference supports wholeheartedly any effort to assist low-income students, who are often among the most marginalized in terms of access to quality education. The Conference maintains that our state should do all that it can to promote successful educational outcomes for children who might otherwise be deprived of the same opportunities as wealthier children. Access to a quality education leads to gainful employment, thus breaking the cycle of poverty plaguing many low-income communities. Pope Francis has stated that the Church should highly value education, leading to gainful employment, as it is through the same that “human beings express and enhance the dignity of their lives.” (Evangelii Gaudium, 192).

States should do all that they can to level the playing fields across income levels regarding access to education. It is in the best interest for the future of our state to ensure that low-income students can break the cycle of poverty and have access to the endless possibilities that a quality education can provide. Therefore, we urge this Committee to report favorably on House Bill 1245.

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HB 1310 - Clean Energy and Energy Efficiency - Investment in Low-Income Communities

Position: Support

Committee: House Appropriations Committee

The Maryland Catholic Conference (“Conference”) represents the public policy interests of the three Roman Catholic (arch) dioceses serving Maryland: the Archdiocese of Baltimore, the Archdiocese of Washington, and the Diocese of Wilmington.

House Bill 1310 requires the Commission on Environmental Justice and Sustainable Communities to develop certain policies and recommendations to place certain priorities in certain years for directing certain spending on clean energy and energy efficiency programs, projects, or investments to benefit certain low-income communities; providing for the application of certain priorities to certain programs, projects, and investments; requiring the Commission to consult with the Department of the Environment.

The Conference supports environmental legislation that recognizes the integral ecosystem in which we live and promotes diversity and inclusion in pursuit of the common good. In his encyclical, On Care for Our Common Home (Laudato Si’), Pope Francis states that “We are faced not with two separate crises, one environmental and the other social, but rather with one complex crisis which is both social and environmental. Strategies for a solution demand an integrated approach to combating poverty, restoring dignity to the excluded, and at the same time protecting nature.”

Laudato Si’ is not an endorsement of specific public policy proposals; rather, it seeks to illustrate the importance of protecting our common home and issue guidance as to how to listen to all voices in solving this massive global crisis. Pope Francis explains that “The human environment and the natural environment deteriorate together; we cannot adequately combat environmental degradation unless we attend to causes related to human and social degradation. In fact, the deterioration of the environment and of society affects the most vulnerable people on the planet… The impact of present imbalances is also seen in the premature death of many of the poor.

The Conference appreciates your consideration and, for these reasons, respectfully requests a favorable report on House Bill 1310.

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HB 1113 - Primary and Secondary Education - Education Savings Account Program – Established

Position: Support

 Committee: House Appropriations Committee

The Maryland Catholic Conference offers this testimony in SUPPORT of House Bill 1113. The Conference represents the public policy interests of the three (arch)dioceses serving Maryland, the Archdioceses of Baltimore and Washington and the Diocese of Wilmington, which together encompass over one million Marylanders. We offer this testimony on behalf of the families of approximately 50,000 students served by over 150 PreK-12 Catholic schools in Maryland.

House Bill 1113 seeks to expand educational options for lower and middle-income Maryland students through the provision of education savings accounts. Accounts, funded by the state, can be used for tuition for new educational opportunities, such as attendance at a nonpublic school of their parents choosing.

Dues to rising costs, there has been significant decrease in nonpublic school enrollment over the last decade due to affordability concerns, as schools seek to provide adequate pay for their certified teachers, maintain high-quality academic programs and meeting maintenance and utility costs, often on much smaller budgets than their public-school counterparts. This decline has a shifted a costly enrollment burden onto Maryland’s public schools. This bill could help to stabilize many schools that serve as pillars of their local communities and neighborhoods, along with their public-school counterparts.

However, through expanding options, this program could act to ease the burden on the state’s public schools. Affording parents and students expanded educational options can help to alleviate some of the overcrowding in our public schools. Increasing nonpublic enrollments through options for lower-income students will also improve the stability of the state’s nonpublic schools, thus acting to preserve or increase the $1.5 billion saved by taxpayers every year due to their presence in the educational landscape as a vital complement to its public schools.

It is also important to note that, through this program, no money is given directly to nonpublic schools, but rather directly to parents. The state owes a duty to ensure all of Maryland’s children are afforded the educational opportunities best suited to their needs. Moreover, the duty is heightened when it comes to providing those options, and a corresponding pathway out of poverty, for lower-income students. This program would be one important step in fulfilling those duties. It is for these reasons that the Maryland Catholic Conference urges a favorable report for House Bill 1113.

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