Health Care Bills Don’t Offer Conscience Protections on Abortion Obama Claims

National   |   Steven Ertelt   |   Sep 11, 2009   |   9:00AM   |   WASHINGTON, DC

Health Care Bills Don’t Offer Conscience Protections on Abortion Obama Claims

by Steven Ertelt Editor
September 11
, 2009

Washington, DC ( — President Barack Obama told the nation Wednesday night that he wants to ensure conscience protections for pro-life medical workers are in place in the health care bills in Congress. The Obama administration should get to work if it wants that to happen since the bills don’t fully protect medical professionals.

Obama’s comments are contradictory in one way — his administration has already started the process of overturning new regulations President Bush put in place to better enforce conscience rights.

But his pledge also appears to be at odds with the current language, or lack thereof, in the government-run health care bills, according to an analysis from Americans United for Life, a pro-life legal group.

On the Senate side, the late pro-abortion Sen. Ted Kennedy offered an amendment to the main bill in July which, AUL says, "would ensure that no health care provider or entity is excluded from contracting with an insurance plan participating in the health care exchange on the basis that the provider or entity refuses to perform abortions if performing abortions would be contrary to the religious or moral beliefs of the individual or entity."

The Senate HELP committee adopted the amendment, but AUL says the scope of it is limited.

"It does not cover providers who refuse to pay for or refer patients for abortion services," Americans United for Life indicates.

"In addition, the amendment provides an exception for ‘cases of emergency,’ which is undefined and can be stretched to fit almost any situation, effectively stripping providers of any protection the amendment may have offered them," the group adds.

To correct the problems, pro-life Sen. Tom Coburn, an Oklahoma Republican, offered an amendment which would have made permanent the current regulations that protect pro-life medical workers.

It would have ensured health care providers are not forced to participate in abortions or discriminated against because they choose not to do abortions. The Coburn amendment was defeated with only one Democrat joining Republicans to support it.

The main House bill, HR 3200, currently contains two conscience clauses.

Three pro-life members of Congress, Reps. Joe Pitts of Pennsylvania, Bart Stupak of Michigan, and Lee terry of Nebraska, two Republicans and a Democrat, drafted a conscience clause which the Energy and Commerce Committee passed by voice vote.

Representative Lois Capps, an abortion advocate from California, also included a conscience clause in the amendment she successfully offered on July 30 that opens the door to massive taxpayer funding of abortions.

According to AUL, "Both amendments prohibit discrimination against physicians, other health care professionals, hospitals, provider-sponsored organizations, health maintenance organization, and health insurance plans for refusing to provide, refer for, pay for or provide coverage for abortion."

Finally, the new bill submitted by Sen. Max Baucus has no mention of abortion and, therefore, no conscience protections on abortions for employees who don’t want to be involved in them or refer for them.

Thus, it appears the House bill offers pro-life conscience protections while the Senate bill does not.

If Obama is true to his pledge, he and his administration will lobby the Senate to adopt conscience amendments when the bill hits the Senate floor or ask House and Senate leaders to keep the protections when the two chambers’ bills are merged.

However, there is no evidence that the Obama administration supported the Coburn amendment when the Senate committee defeated it.

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