Today on the House floor, Speaker Paul Ryan (R-WI) spoke in favor of the Conscience Protection Act. Below are the speaker’s remarks as prepared for delivery:
“Mr. Speaker, I think we can all agree, that in this country, no one should be forced to perform an abortion. I know we disagree about when life begins. I know we disagree about what government should do about it. And however strongly I hold my beliefs, I know my friends on the other side feel just as strongly. I respect those disagreements.
“But whoever you are—whatever you believe—I think this is one thing we can all agree on: No one should be forced to violate their conscience—least of all by the federal government. That’s all this bill says. The federal government—or anyone who receives taxpayer dollars—cannot discriminate against health care providers who do not perform abortions. And if they do discriminate, this bill says the victims will have two avenues of relief: Either, file a complaint with the Department of Health and Human Services. Or, file a civil suit in court. That’s all this bill does.
“Now, our opponents say that this kind of thing just doesn’t happen. Nobody in their right mind would force someone against their will to help with an abortion. Well, tell that to Cathy DeCarlo. She was a nurse at Mt. Sinai Hospital in New York City. And a few years ago, she was forced to help with an abortion.
“Mr. Speaker, this is not an isolated incident. There have been cases of nurses being suspended or threatened with firing solely for the offense of following their conscience. And now, the state of California requires all health insurance plans to cover abortion. So if you’re a church or a religious school, it doesn’t matter. You must cover this procedure. And if it violates your conscience, too bad.
“Mr. Speaker, this is a disturbing trend. And what’s even more disturbing is that the federal government has not been protecting people’s rights. There are already laws on the books to protect people’s conscience. But after Cathy DeCarlo filed a complaint to HHS, she waited three years for a resolution. And when she filed a lawsuit, an appeals court said she didn’t have standing and threw out her case. That’s why this bill makes it perfectly clear: People of faith have standing, and they deserve relief.
“Mr. Speaker, this bill does not ban or restrict abortion in any way. This bill does not change any medical standards or contracts. It does not change any laws regarding emergency treatment. All it does is protect a person’s conscience.
“And allowing this trend to continue will only erode our First Amendment rights even further. It will continue to push people of faith onto the sidelines of society.
“Mr. Speaker, that is not the kind of country we want to live in—any of us. There is nothing more fulfilling than to live out our faith. We want all people—of all faiths—to live freely in our country. But we can live out our faith only if our government respects our faith. And that’s why we need to pass this bill.
“I want to thank Congressman Fleming and Congresswoman Black for their outstanding work. They have been out in front on this issue—constantly leading the charge. They’ve written a great bill that all of us can support. And I want to urge all of my colleagues to vote for it. Thank you.”