Abortion Non-Discrimination Act

 

On August 22, 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.

ANDA was first introduced in Congress in 2002. The measure was the basis of the Weldon Amendment but the full ANDA bill should become law. Currently, the presumed recourse for violations of the Weldon Amendment is the denial of all funding under the Labor/HHS bill. ANDA provides more focused remedies. The courts will have jurisdiction “to prevent and redress actual or threatened violations” of this law, including injunctions against prohibited conduct or orders preventing disbursement of all or a portion of Federal financial assistance until the prohibited conduct at the State or local level has ceased. Health care entities may initiate legal action to defend their conscience rights; the U.S. Attorney General may also initiate action on their behalf. The Office for Civil Rights of the Department of Health and Human Services may also investigate claims of discrimination, in coordination with the Attorney General.

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

The most up-to-date version of ANDA was included in a draft Fiscal Year 2013 Labor/HHS Appropriations Bill (Sec. 538). This draft appropriations bill did not become law. The government’s spending authority for fiscal year 2013 was secured in a series of Continuing Resolutions or CRs.

In a November 17, 2014 letter, the U.S. bishops urge Congress to incorporate ANDA into must-pass funding legislation at the earliest possible opportunity. See: www.usccb.org/news/2014/14-192.cfm.

Law: ANDA was not included in the Consolidated and Continuing Appropriations Act, 2015 (H.R. 83) (Public Law 113-235).

Explanatory Statement: On December 11, 2014, Rep. Harold Rogers (R-KY), Chairman of the House Appropriations Committee, submitted in the Congressional Record an Explanatory Statement on the Consolidated and Continuing Appropriations Act, 2015.  According to the 2015 appropriation law (Sec. 4), the Chairman’s statement shall have the same effect as if it were a joint explanatory statement of a conference committee. Under “Healthcare Provider Complaints,” the statement reads: “Legislation appropriating funding for the Department of Health and Human Services has carried a general provision relating to health care providers since fiscal year 2005 (Division H, section 507(d) of Public Law 113-76). Complaints regarding reported violations of these provisions have been filed with the Office for Civil Rights at the Department of Health and Human Services. The Secretary is directed to respond to these complaints expeditiously in accordance with final rule 45 CFR Part 88 published in Federal Register Vol. 76 No. 36” (Congressional Record, 12/11/14, H9838-9).

Efforts to pass ANDA must continue in the new Congress in 2015.