Will Congress Protect Conscientious Objectors to Abortion?

Photo credit: Quinn Dombrowski via Flickr (CC BY-SA 2.0)
Photo credit: Quinn Dombrowski via Flickr (CC BY-SA 2.0)

Today, members of the House of Representatives will vote on the Conscience Protection Act.

If passed, the bill will codify a ban on discrimination against health services providers that object to abortion on religious or moral grounds.

“This bill is one that is an extension of the Weldon amendment, which has been in law since 2005,” Congressman John Fleming, one of the bill’s supporters, said in a recent interview.

“What it says is that health care workers should not be required to participate against their will with abortions or anything of that type. Also, when you purchase health care coverage, when you make premiums, you cannot be required to pay premiums towards a plan that covers elective abortions,” Fleming explained.

The Conscience Protection Act has gained widespread support, and Catholic bishops have been particularly vocal about its necessity.

Additionally, in a column yesterday for The Hill, Susan B. Anthony List President, and occasional contributor to The Pulse 2016, Majorie Dannenfelser went into deeper detail as to the significant need for this legislation:

Ahead of the August recess, Americans are urging the House of Representatives to take up the task entrusted to them by the founders by voting on the Conscience Protection Act of 2016. Our first president, George Washington, called freedom of conscience “an inherent natural right.” His current successor, Barack Obama, does not seem to agree. Why else would his administration refuse to enforce the Weldon amendment, which bars federal funds from going to states that discriminate against those who object on moral or religious grounds to abortion?

The administration’s failure to enforce the Weldon amendment tramples on the conscience rights of people across the country. In New York City, for example, nurse Cathy Cenzon-DeCarlo was forced by her employer to participate in a late-term abortion at 22 weeks, against her deeply held pro-life beliefs. Under threat of losing her job, Cathy had to assist with the gruesome procedure and was required to account for all of the baby’s body parts afterwards.

In a broader threat, the conscience rights of Californians are also under attack. Citizens of the Golden State are now subject to a state law requiring all health plans to cover abortion. Under the law, Californians cannot obtain health insurance that does not violate their conscience, because it is illegal for health insurers operating in the state to offer any insurance plans that don’t cover abortion. Churches, religious charities, employers and individuals must participate in and subsidize healthcare plans that pay for abortions or forgo health coverage altogether. For what public purpose should seminaries that educate celibate Catholic priests be required to buy health plans that cover abortion? The absurdity of this and other examples makes it clear that the only purpose of California’s action is to punish those who conscientiously object.

The Conscience Protection Act, which has been led by Reps. John Fleming (R-La.), Vicky Hartzler (R-Mo.), Diane Black (R-Tenn.) and Jeff Fortenberry (R-Neb.) in the House and by Sen. James Lankford (R-Okla.) in the Senate, will remedy this outrageous abuse of state power by protecting the conscience rights of all Americans. These rights have until recently been upheld by both parties, at all levels of government. Even those who support Roe v. Wade have consistently agreed that Americans who object to abortion should not be forced to participate in it or subsidize its costs. That longstanding consensus is now under attack, making the need for legislative action urgent.

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You can read Dannenfelser’s full column here.

Michael Lucchese works for the American Principles Project.