Abortion Non-Discrimination Act

In 2014, the California Department of Managed Health Care (DMHC) ordered all health plans under its jurisdiction, including those provided by churches and other religious institutions to their employees, to provide coverage for all abortions. Other states are considering similar proposals.

California’s action violates federal law. The Weldon Amendment, a part of appropriations law since 2004, provides that governmental bodies receiving federal funding may not discriminate against a health care entity that “does not provide, pay for, provide coverage of, or refer for abortions.” But the Weldon Amendment lacks effective enforcement and has been subject to legal challenges. The Abortion Non-Discrimination Act (ANDA) addresses these problems. The policy of the Weldon conscience protection amendment is made clearer and more permanent, and a new section is created in the Public Health Service Act to establish a private right of action so victims of discrimination can take their case to federal court.

The basic provisions of ANDA are included in the Health Care Conscience Rights Act (HCCRA) (Secs. 4 and 5). The HCCRA was made part of the House Appropriations Committee's Fiscal Year 2016 Labor/HHS Appropriations Bill (H.R. 3020, Sec. 530—the ANDA language at subsections (d) and (e)). H.R. 3020 was placed on the House calendar but no further action was taken. The fiscal year 2016 Labor/HHS appropriations was rolled into the end-of-year Omnibus Appropriations Bill (H.R. 2029), which was passed December 18, 2015. Efforts to incorporate HCCRA’s ANDA language into H.R. 2029 were not successful.

Speaking on behalf of the bishops of the United States, Archbishop Joseph Kurtz of Louisville, President of the USCCB, expressed grave disappointment that the ANDA language was not included in the Omnibus. “No one should be forced by the government to actively participate in what they believe to be the taking of an innocent life.” Federal laws have long supported the right of conscientious objection. “ANDA merely sought to give them [the laws] a more consistent means of enforcement.” The Archbishop thanked those Members of Congress who supported ANDA, and “in the strongest possible terms” urged those who opposed to reconsider their position. Without ANDA, “current federal conscience laws are, now for the first time, being enforced erratically or not at all in places such as California.” This measure “should be enacted as soon as possible.” For full comments, see: www.usccb.org/news/2015/15-168.cfm.

More Information: The campaign to coerce everyone to accept abortion as a normal part of health care has accelerated under the Affordable Care Act.

Also see elsewhere in this Legislative Report the section: