House Committee Backs Measure Protecting Hospitals From Doing Abortions

National   |   Steven Ertelt   |   Jul 14, 2004   |   9:00AM   |   WASHINGTON, DC

House Committee Backs Measure Protecting Hospitals From Doing Abortions

by Steven Ertelt Editor
July 14, 2004

Washington, DC ( — Hospitals, health insurance companies and medical personnel would have an easier time opting out of paying for or performing abortions thanks to a measure passed Wednesday by a House committee.

Members of the House Appropriations Committee added the Abortion Non-Discrimination Act (ANDA) to a federal spending bill on a voice vote when abortion advocates realized they didn’t have enough votes to block it.

The ANDA prohibits federal funds from going to any federal, state or local governmental agency that discriminates against health care providers or insurers who do not perform abortions, pay for them or make abortion referrals.

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. That leaves hospitals, health plans, nurses, and other health care participants without protection

Pro-life Representative Dave Weldon (R-FL), a doctor by profession, said it would make it harder for the government or abortion advocates to sue medical facilities and insurance companies for refusing to be involved in abortions.

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

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

Members of Congress who favor abortion, such as New York Democrat Nita Lowey, say the ANDA measure is a way for pro-life groups to "gag" doctors and other medical professionals. Under the Weldon measure, they would be prohibited from discussing abortion as an option, Lowey contends.

But pro-life lawmakers say the issue is one of a right of conscience for medical professionals and medical facilities.

Weldon 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," Congressman Weldon explains.

President Bush supports the ANDA measure.

"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," Bush said, "because they oppose or choose not to participate in abortions or abortion training."

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: