From NCHLA – Recent action by the federal government allowing California to continue forcing health plans to cover abortions has prompted the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops to call for an immediate federal remedy. It is critical that you contact your representatives and urge them to take immediate action to enact the Conscience Protection Act of 2016 H.R. 4828/S. 2927). Even if you have responded to a previous alert, please contact your representatives again and urge them to support this bill. Read the Bishops’ news release here (link is external) and a fact sheet on the ruling here(link is external).
In 2014, California started forcing almost all health plans in the state to cover elective abortions, even late-term abortions. Religious employers in California that offer group health plans to their employees lodged an objection with the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), which has oversight responsibility for enforcing federal conscience laws. On June 21, HHS declared, contrary to the plain meaning of current federal law that the California Department of Managed Health Care can continue to force all health plans under its jurisdiction to cover elective abortions.
What is more, other states such as Washington and New York may be following California’s lead. These actions clearly violate a federal law known as the Weldon Amendment, which forbids governments receiving federal health care funds to discriminate against those who decline to take part in abortion or abortion coverage. Unfortunately, this amendment has limitations that may make it difficult to enforce.
While HHS badly interpreted the Weldon amendment, the Conscience Protection Act (CPA) of 2016, (H.R. 4828/S. 2927), will make it even clearer that sponsors or providers of health plans that do not include elective abortion cannot be discriminated against. The CPA will protect health care providers from being forced to pay for or participate in abortions, and allow victims of discrimination a “right of action” to defend their rights in court. For example, nurses threatened with loss of their jobs unless they assist in abortions have found they have no right to go to court to see the law enforced. Congress should reaffirm a principle that has long enjoyed broad bipartisan support: Government should not force hospitals, doctors, nurses and other providers to stop offering much-needed health care because they cannot in good conscience participate in destroying a human life.