Health Care-Abortion Conscience Clause Left in Congressional Bill

National   |   Steven Ertelt   |   Sep 11, 2004   |   9:00AM   |   WASHINGTON, DC

Health Care-Abortion Conscience Clause Left in Congressional Bill Email this article
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by Steven Ertelt Editor
September 11, 2004

Washington, DC ( — A key pro-life provision in a federal spending bill wasn’t targeted by abortion advocates this week. That means health care entities, insurers or employees who refuse to participate in or fund abortions are one step closer to being better protected from governmental discrimination and pro-abortion lawsuits.

Pro-life lawmakers and groups were concerned that abortion advocates would move to eliminate the Hyde-Weldon conscience clause from the bill funding the departments of Labor and Health and Human Services.

The Hyde-Weldon provision makes sure heath care providers, insurance companies and health care 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 under the measure, sponsored by Representatives Dave Weldon (R-FL) and Henry Hyde (R-IL).

The language essentially mirrors another piece of legislation, the Abortion Non-Discrimination Act, the House passed 229-189 in September 2002. The Senate never voted on that bill.

Expecting abortion advocates to make a move to strike the pro-life provision, the Bush administration prepared a memo urging Congress to "strongly oppose" such an effort.

Lawmakers say the next challenge for the measure is a House-Senate conference committee. Pro-life lawmakers, who are members of the committee to iron out differences between the bills, will work to ensure that the provision stays in place.

Current federal law already protects "health care entities" from having to perform abortions, but pro-abortion groups have persuaded some courts to interpreted that law to protect only individual physicians and training programs.

That leaves hospitals, health insurance companies, nurses, and other health care participants without protection unless the Hyde-Weldon language is finalized.