Obama Administration Opposes Bill To Protect Conscience Rights of Pro-Life Heathcare Providers

AP Photo/Susan Walsh
AP Photo/Susan Walsh

In a statement of administration policy, the Obama administration says it is opposed to a bill that would prevent any federal, state, or local government from punishing or discriminating against pro-life healthcare providers who refuse to perform or participate in abortions.

The Obama administration states:

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. Longstanding Federal policy already prohibits the use of Federal funds for abortions, except in cases of rape or incest, or when the life of the woman would be endangered. Additionally, the Administration has instituted health care policies that appropriately accommodate religious objections. This bill would unduly limit women’s health care choices by allowing a broadly-defined set of health providers (including secular sponsors of employer-based health coverage) to decline to provide abortion coverage based on any objections. The legislation would also permanently authorize alternative methods of enforcing these provisions that would inevitably lead to confusion.

The Administration is continuing its efforts to protect the rights of conscience, reduce unintended pregnancies, expand access to contraception, support maternal and child health, and minimize the need for abortion.  At the same time, the Administration is committed to the protection of women’s health and reproductive freedom and to supporting women and families in the choices that they make, which—as the Supreme Court just reaffirmed—are protected by the Constitution.

If the President were presented with this legislation, his senior advisors would recommend he veto the bill.

The House is voting this week on the Conscience Protection Act of 2016, a measure sponsored by Rep. Diane Black (R-TN).

In an op-ed at the Washington Examiner, Black writes the bill “goes beyond existing law to provide victims of abortion coercion a civil right of action.” Black says pro-life healthcare providers currently must “leave their freedoms to the will of a radically pro-abortion Administration.”

The lawmaker cites the situation of “government-mandated abortion coercion” 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.

Black explains:

This edict stands in defiance of a longstanding, bipartisan statute known as the “Weldon Amendment,” which prohibits government discrimination against healthcare providers on the basis of a refusal to perform or provide coverage for abortions, but the Obama administration doesn’t seem to care.

After I led more than 120 Members of Congress in demanding a Department of Health and Human Services Office of Civil Rights investigation into the California abortion mandate, the agency got back to us nearly two years later reporting their findings that no violation had occurred.

While the Obama administration dithered, other states used this failure to enforce the law as license to enact more anti-conscience rights laws of their own. New York has become the latest state to implement an abortion mandate, and others will follow suit if Congress does not act.

Black also notes that in his commencement address at Notre Dame University in 2009, President Barack Obama said, “Let’s honor the conscience of those who disagree with abortion.”

“Sadly, his words do not match his administration’s actions,” she observes.

In its statement, the Obama administration cites “longstanding Federal policy already prohibits the use of Federal funds for abortions, except in cases of rape or incest, or when the life of the woman would be endangered.”

It is worth noting that the Democrat Party platform this year fully embraces abortion and Planned Parenthood. It reflects the position of presumptive nominee Hillary Clinton that the “longstanding Federal policy” known as the Hyde Amendment be repealed so that federal taxpayer funding for abortion can be expanded.


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