Members of Congress May Vote on Abortion Conscience Clause This Week

National   |   Steven Ertelt   |   Sep 7, 2004   |   9:00AM   |   WASHINGTON, DC

Members of Congress May Vote on Abortion Conscience Clause This Week

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by Steven Ertelt Editor
September 7, 2004

Washington, DC ( — Members of Congress may vote this week on the issue of abortion when the House of Representatives takes up a bill funding the departments of Labor and Health and Human Services. Abortion advocates want to strike pro-life language that prevents government from discriminating against health care providers that don’t participate in abortions.

In July, pro-life lawmakers added a measure to the Labor-HHS bill ensuring that heath care providers and professionals that refuse to "provide, pay for, provide coverage of, or refer for abortion," will be protected.

Any government agency receiving federal funds that discriminates against such a person or entity will lose federal funding. Pro-life congressmen Dave Weldon (R-FL) and Henry Hyde (R-IL) sponsored the provision.

However, abortion advocates may offer an amendment on the House floor to strike the pro-life provision from the bill.

In anticipation of such a move, pro-life organizations are lobbying members of Congress to keep the Hyde-Weldon language.

Representatives of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, the Catholic Health Association and the Catholic Medical Association, wrote a joint letter to members of Congress on Friday.

Should the pro-life language be removed, Catholic hospitals would be subject to lawsuits forcing them to pay for abortions and the letter cites cases in Alaska, New Jersey and New Mexico where hospitals were discriminated against because of their pro-life policies.

"Hospitals and other health care providers have ‘a right to choose not to be involved in destroying life," the letter said.

Meanwhile, the National Right to Life Committee has also called on members of the House of Representatives to retain the pro-life language.

"The Hyde-Weldon provision would provide consistent federal protection from government discrimination for other health care providers such as doctors, hospitals, and insurers who decline to participate in abortions," NRLC legislative director Douglas Johnson said in the letter.

The provision puts into law the concept embodied in the Abortion Non-Discrimination Act (ANDA), a bill the House passed 229-189 in September 2002. The Senate never voted on the bill.

Current federal law already protects "health care entities" from having to perform abortions, but it has been interpreted to protect only individual physicians and training programs. That leaves hospitals, health insurance companies, nurses, and other health care participants without protection.

Weldon, a doctor by profession, said the language would make it harder for the government or abortion advocates to sue medical facilities and insurance companies for refusing to be involved in abortions.

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

ACTION: Contact your member of the House and urge a no vote on any attempt to delete the Hyde-Weldon conscience clause from the Labor-HHS bill. You can call any member of Congress at 202-224-3121 or find specific contact information at

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