House: On July 18, 2012, the House Appropriations Subcommittee on Labor, Health and Human Services, Education and Related Agencies (Chairman, Rep. Dennis Rehberg, R-MT) marked up the Fiscal Year 2013 Labor/Health and Human Services Appropriations Bill. The Chairman’s Mark (released in draft form, not numbered) contained two important conscience protection provisions related to health care:
- Section 537 expressed the intent of the Respect for Rights of Conscience Act (H.R. 1179). Appropriated funds may not be used to enforce any provision of the new health care law that requires coverage, or facilitation of coverage, of abortion or other items or services when objected to on the basis of religious beliefs or moral convictions. It also provided for legal action to obtain relief with regard to an actual or threatened violation of this law.
Section 537 will protect a right of conscience in the face of the new contraceptive mandate that requires almost all private health plans to provide coverage for sterilization, all FDA-approved birth control (such as the IUD, Depo-Provera, ‘morning-after’ pills, and the abortion-inducing drug Ella), and “education and counseling” to promote these to all “women of reproductive capacity” including minor girls. HHS’s mandate allows only a very narrow exemption for a “religious employer.” Religious organizations providing education, healthcare and charitable services to all in need cannot qualify for the exemption. Religious organizations that cannot qualify for the exemption will have an extra year to comply; but before the end of that period, an additional rule will be issued to make sure that their employees receive the mandated coverage despite objections from the employer and/or employee.
- Section 538 incorporated the Abortion Non-Discrimination Act (ANDA) (H.R. 361) into the appropriations bill. No health care entity may be forced by government to perform, participate in or pay for abortions. Examples of governmental agencies discriminating in these ways continue to grow. ANDA codifies the Hyde/Weldon Amendment that has been a part of the annual Labor/HHS appropriations bill since 2004, while enhancing its enforceability. Health care providers, for example, may initiate legal action to defend their conscience rights. Federal courts are authorized to provide the appropriate remedies needed to stop discrimination.
For a copy of the draft bill, see: appropriations.house.gov/uploadedfiles/bills-112hr-sc-ap-fy13-laborhhsed.pdf.
During subcommittee markup, Rep. Nita Lower (D-NY) offered an amendment to strike Section 537. The Lowey amendment failed.
The subcommittee approved the Labor/HHS appropriations bill with the two conscience protection sections intact.
Cardinal Daniel DiNardo, chairman of the U.S. bishops’ Committee on Pro-Life Activities, had urged the subcommittee to approve the two conscience provisions and publicly welcomed its decision to do so. See: www.usccb.org/news/2012/12-129.cfm.
At year’s end, Congress had not passed the Fiscal Year 2013 Labor/HHS Appropriations Bill.
Please click here for more detailed information about the Respect for Rights of Conscience Act in the Review of Legislation section of this report.
Please click here for more detailed information about ANDA in the Review of Legislation section of this report.
Please click here for more detailed information about the health care mandates in the Review of Legislation section of this report.