House Passes Legislation to Protect Conscience Rights of Pro-Life Healthcare Providers

pregnant woman APMatt Rourke
AP/Matt Rourke

On Wednesday the House passed legislation, 245-182, that would prevent any federal, state, or local government from punishing or discriminating against pro-life healthcare providers who refuse to perform, participate in, or cover abortions.

Rep. Diane Black (R-TN), the sponsor of the measure, says it is designed to prevent “government-mandated abortion coercion,” such as what is occurring throughout California after the state’s Department of Managed Health Care in 2014 required all insurance plans, including those provided by religious-affiliated employers, to offer coverage for abortion on demand.

Senior pastor of Skyline Church in San Diego Rev. James Garlow told Breitbart News’ Neil McCabe that “When somebody told me, ‘You’re now paying for abortions,’ I just couldn’t believe that.”

“The tithe dollars in our church are now paying for elective abortions and the vote today in Congress is critical,” the author of scripture-based guide Well Versed continued. “The Obama administration has already indicated they will not support it. He is the most pro-abortion, pro-baby killing president in the history of America.”

During a speech on the House floor, Black said, “Today, I’m simply asking the members of this body to allow the millions of Americans who believe, as I do, in the sanctity of every life, to abide by those beliefs without having them trampled upon by their own government.”

Pro-life leaders throughout the nation applauded the passage of the bill, which now heads to the Senate. President Obama however, has already indicated he will veto the measure.

A statement of administration policy says:

The Administration strongly opposes the House Amendment to S. 304, the Conscience Protection Act of 2016, because it would have the consequence of limiting women’s health care choices and because the Administration believes that protections in current Federal law already provide appropriate protection for the rights of conscience.

Abortion business Planned Parenthood agreed with the Obama administration’s statement and tweeted the following:

Rep. Chris Smith, chairman of the Bipartisan Congressional Pro-Life Caucus, said President Obama’s decision to veto the legislation if it passed Congress “is not only unfair and unjustified – it grossly violates the rule of law.”

“In an unconscionable abuse of power, for almost two years the state of California has forced all insurance plans under its purview—and the people and institutions that pay the premiums—to subsidize abortion on demand,” Smith asserted. “The Weldon federal conscience law authored by Congressman Dave Weldon of Florida and continuously in effect for over a decade—makes it explicit and comprehensively clear that California’s action is illegal.

Smith explained that the Conscience Protection Act would ultimately remove enforcement of conscience protection from the HHS Office of Civil Rights.

“The House vote today is about protecting those who have been ordered to violate their deeply held convictions and pay for, or participate in, abortion—the killing of unborn children by hideous dismemberment procedures, toxic compounds or chemical poisoning,” he added.

Representatives from The Catholic Association (TCA) agreed.

“Men and women who have dedicated themselves to preserving life and promoting health should not be discriminated against when they refuse to perform, pay for, or facilitate an abortion,” TCA advisory board member Dr. Grazie Pozo Christie said in a statement. “It is too glaringly obvious to scientifically trained minds and hearts dedicated to healing our fellow man that an abortion is a lethal assault on a small and defenseless human being.”

“The Obama Administration has shattered the bipartisan consensus on conscience rights with its unlawful refusal to enforce the plain language of the Weldon Amendment, which prohibits government discrimination against private entities that decline to pay for abortion,” said TCA senior policy advisor Maureen Ferguson. “It is outrageous that the state of California has been illegally forcing churches, religious charities, and schools to pay for abortion in their healthcare plans, while the Obama Administration has looked the other way for two years.”

A new survey by the Knights of Columbus-Marist Institute for Public Opinion Poll shows that 56 percent of Americans believe healthcare professionals and organizations should be able to opt out of performing and covering abortion procedures, as opposed to 37 percent who do not.

The survey of 1,009 adults was performed through landline or mobile phone interviews during the week of July 5-12. The results were found to be statistically significant within ±3.1 percentage points.

“Consistent with our First Amendment guarantees, the American people believe that no person or organization should be compelled to help perform or cover abortion,” said Knights of Columbus CEO Carl Anderson. “It is important that our elected officials continue to protect these important rights, and no American ever be forced to be involved in abortion against their conscience or religious beliefs.”

Students for Life of America president Kristan Hawkins said the lack of enforcement of conscience protections for medical professionals presents them with “a nightmare.”

These professionals, she said, “went into the healthcare field with a passion for helping people and instead have been forced into a win-less situation of either losing their job or doing something that they consider to be a grave evil.”

Family Research Council President Tony Perkins observed the House passed the measure protecting conscience rights just one day after the Republican Party Platform committee adopted a plank protecting those same rights.

“No person, organization or healthcare provider should ever be forced by the government to participate in the abhorrent act of abortion,” he said in a statement.

Perkins continued:

Since the federal Department of Health and Human Services has dragged its feet and is now ignoring the federal law, known as the Weldon Amendment, this legislation is necessary to enable victims of government discrimination over their pro-life views, including churches, doctors, and nurses, to pursue legal action against the state for violating their consciences. The Conscience Protection Act is about basic fairness for everyone.

“We are one step closer to providing judicial relief from California’s unlawful and discriminatory abortion mandate,” he added. “We are one step closer to ensuring that if the federal government and states discriminate against pro-life health care providers and even churches which object to abortion they can sue to obtain relief.”


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