Bill to Protect Pro-Life Hospital Polices Reintroduced in Congress

National   |   Steven Ertelt   |   Dec 14, 2003   |   9:00AM   |   WASHINGTON, DC

Bill to Protect Pro-Life Hospital Polices Reintroduced in Congress

by Steven Ertelt Editor
December 14, 2003

Washington, DC ( — Hospitals and medical facilities that don’t want to perform or pay for abortions or make referrals for them shouldn’t be forced to do so, say pro-life advocates who are backing legislation that has been reintroduced in Congress.

The Abortion Non-Discrimination Act, like so many pro-life bills, was approved by the House of Representatives but never made it to the Senate floor for a debate.

Abortion advocates have been suing hospitals and, in at least one case, have won the right to mandate the performance of abortions.

"Congress has another opportunity to protect health care providers who do not want to participate in abortions," said Cathy Cleaver Ruse, Director of Planning and Information for the USCCB Secretariat for Pro-Life Activities. "No one should be forced into the practice of abortion."

Pro-life Congressman Michael Bilirakis (R-FL) reintroduced the legislation on December 8 and Senator Judd Gregg (R-NH) has introduced a companion bill in the Senate.

Current federal law already protects "health care entities" from having to perform or provide for abortions, but it has been interpreted to protect only individual physicians and training programs, leaving hospitals, health plans, nurses, and other health care participants without protection unless helpful state laws are in place.

"The original law was intended to apply to the broadest definition of health care entities," Bilirakis explained. "These conscience protections say that hospitals should not be forced to perform abortions."

Currently, 86 percent of American hospitals do not allow abortions to be performed.

Abortion advocates claimed the bill would impose certain religious views on others. Bill proponents are "trying to hide behind the Vatican," pro-abortion Rep. Louise Slaughter (D-NY) said.

Pro-life Congressman Dave Weldon (R-FL) agreed that abortion advocates were staging a campaign to force hospitals to do abortions.

"The people who want to advance the agenda have gotten courts to interpret that hospitals are not health care entities," Weldon, a doctor by profession, explained.

He described a campaign by the NARAL’s Maryland affiliate to require hospitals in the state to perform abortion. He also pointed out pro-abortion efforts to sue a Catholic hospital in New Jersey and to lobby courts in Alaska to require a private nonsectarian hospital to perform abortions. "They found a loophole in federal law and want to drive a truck through it," Weldon concluded.

In other cases, a hospital merger in New Hampshire was halted after abortion activists intervened with the state attorney general. In Connecticut a certificate of need was denied to a proposed outpatient surgical center that would have declined to perform abortions, after abortion activists intervened in the proceedings.

President Bush indicated he supports the aims of the pro-life legislation.

"Hospitals and health care professionals should not be forced to perform or participate in abortions,” Bush has said previously. "This legislation makes clear that they may not be subjected to discrimination by the federal government, or by any state or local government … because they oppose or choose not to participate in abortions or abortion training."

"The irony here cannot be ignored," Ruse concluded. "The same abortion advocates who promote a ‘right to choose’ deny the right of health care providers to choose not to perform abortion. They tell us, ‘if you don’t like abortion, don’t have one.’ Pro-life health providers must be able to say: ‘we don’t like abortion, so don’t force us to perform them.’"

The House previously passed the bill with a 229-to-189 vote in September 2002.

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To see how House members voted in 2002 on the bill: