Pro-life lawmakers are continuing to introduce bills directed at upholding the sanctity of life with the latest laws diverting federal funds to abortion-free health care providers and protecting the conscience rights of healthcare workers.
The Catholic News Agency (CNA) is reporting on the bills introduced in Congress during the past week.
The first bill, known as the “Protect Funding for Women’s Health Care Act” was introduced by Senators Joni Ernst (R-IA) and James Lankford (R-OK) is designed to ensure that there is no reduction in federal funding for women’s health when Planned Parenthood is defunded.
The bill would provide funding for women’s health services by health care providers that are not involved in abortion. These services would include diagnostic laboratory and radiology services, prenatal and postnatal care, immunizations, and cervical and breast cancer screenings.
The bill also prohibits funding of Planned Parenthood or any of its affiliate organizations.
Senator Lankford introduced a similar bill in 2015 after revelations that Planned Parenthood had engaged in the practice of harvesting human body parts from abortions. The bill passed in the House but was never given a vote in the Senate.
Another bill, known as “The Conscience Protection Act,” is designed to protect health care providers, including health care professionals, entities and health insurance plans from government discrimination if they decline to participate in abortions.
“This bill is needed to give health care providers the right to provide medical care without violating their deeply held beliefs,” said Sen. James Lankford, sponsor of the bill in the Senate. “Americans have very different views about abortion, but we should not force anyone to participate in it or provide coverage.”
The bill is also being sponsored in the House of Representatives by Rep. Diane Black (R-TN) and Jeff Fortenberry (R-NE).
“Being an American has always meant experiencing the freedom to live by the dictates of one’s deeply held beliefs at home, at work, and in the public square,” said Congresswoman Black. “But too often today, pro-life Americans are denied that same opportunity. With states like California and New York enforcing abortion mandates in state insurance coverage and instances of health care workers like Cathy Cenzon-Decarlo being forced to violate their beliefs on the dignity of life as a condition of keeping their job, Congress is compelled to act.”
Congresswoman Black is referring to a case involving Cenzon-Decarlo, a nurse at Mt. Sinai Hospital in New York, who was coerced into assisting at an abortion in spite of this procedure being a violation of her deeply held religious beliefs. She requested an investigation by the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) which ultimately found in her favor and required the hospital to alter its policies to provide for employees who conscientiously object to abortion.
Black also referred to the state of California which forces all employers, including religious groups, to cover elective abortions in their health plans. Last June, the former head of the HHS civil rights office ruled that religious groups which opposed California’s mandate were not protected and would have to comply with it.
As CNA reports, these incidents sparked a request by the U.S. bishops asking Congress to pass The Conscience Protection Act.
Reps. Black and Fortenberry introduced this legislation in the House during the previous session; it passed the House in July 2016 by a bipartisan vote of 245-182. Lankford introduced the bill in the Senate last May, but it did not receive a vote in the Senate last session.
Rep. Fortenberry referred to conscience as the “sacred space of human dignity” where persons exercise their sincerely held beliefs.
“It is a true poverty that this most cherished American principle is under assault, violating the good of persons and communities. The Conscience Protection Act will enable health care professionals and organizations to serve by their core convictions without coercion.”
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