U.S. House Passes So-Called ‘Conscience’ Bill

The U.S. House of Representatives passed the so-called “Conscience Protection Act” in July in a bid to allow healthcare providers to refuse to perform an extremely broad range of activities related to abortion care.

Proponents said the measure (H.R. 4828) is designed to prevent anyone from being forced to assist with abortion, but critics, including Americans United, argued that the bill is so broadly written that it would also allow hospitals, insurance companies, and even employers, to refuse to cover or pro­vide an array of services under the guise of religious liberty.

In a letter to the House, Americans United Assistant Legislative Director Dena Sher urged members to vote against the bill, arguing that it negatively impacts women’s health and raises constitutional concerns.

“The bill jeopardizes a woman’s ability to access comprehensive health insurance coverage for abortion, or even information about abortion as a treatment option in an emergency,” Sher wrote. Broad religious “[e]xemptions that create a significant, harmful, discriminatory impact on others, like the one created by this bill, are impermissible and must be barred.”

The bill passed 245-182 along mostly party lines. President Barack Obama has indicated that he will veto the measure if it reaches his desk.