The House on Wednesday voted 245-182 to pass the Conscience Protection Act of 2016, a bill which would restrict access to abortion by allowing healthcare workers and health insurance providers to refuse to cover abortion services.
The bill’s main sponsor, Rep. Diane Black (R-TN), argued that the Act will mandate state and local governments to “honor the conscience” of individuals who refuse to perform, assist, or fund abortions.
Opponents of the Act called it “destructive” asserting that it will allow health care providers to impose their anti-abortion beliefs upon employees and patients. Congressman Jim McGovern (D-Mass.), called the legislation an “unconscionable attempt to take away women’s right to healthcare.” In particular, McGovern noted that portions of the Act would allow physicians to withhold medical information from patients if they believe such information could lead to the woman obtaining an abortion.
The Obama Administration will veto the Conscience Protection Act if it reaches the President’s desk; the White House on Tuesday voiced strong opposition to the bill, claiming that it would “unduly limit women’s health care choices.”
The Conscience Protection Act was proposed in response to a recent California policy that requires all health insurance companies to provide abortion coverage. In 2014, California’s Department of Managed Health Care issued letters to the state’s seven main insurance companies, reminding them that, in accordance with California’s state constitution as well as the Knox-Keene Act of 1975, they are required to “treat maternity services and legal abortion neutrally” in all plans. The Conscience Protection Act seeks to undo this policy and stigmatize abortion – a basic part of comprehensive reproductive healthcare.
The Feminist Majority Foundation and 35 other organizations signed onto a letter opposing the Act.