House Amendment to S. 304, Conscience Protection Act of 2016
On Wednesday, July 13, 2016, the House will begin consideration of the House Amendment to S. 304, the Conscience Protection Act of 2016, under a closed rule. S. 304 was introduced on January 29, 2015, by Sen. John Thune (R-SD) and was referred to the Senate Commerce, Science, and Transportation Committee. S. 304 passed the Senate on April 28, 2015 by Unanimous Consent.
The House Amendment to S. 304 replaces the underlying text with provisions of H.R. 4828, the Conscience Protection Act of 2016. The legislation prevents governmental discrimination against individuals and health care entities that decline involvement in abortion. Specifically, the legislation amends the Public Health Service Act to codify the prohibition against the federal government, and state and local governments that receive federal funding for health-related activities, for penalizing or discriminating against a health care provider based on their refusal to be involved in, or provide coverage for, abortion. According to the bill, health care providers include health care professionals, health care facilities, social services providers, health care professional training programs, and group health plans.
In addition, the legislation directs the Office for Civil Rights of the Department of Health and Human Services, in coordination with the Department of Justice, to investigate complaints alleging discrimination. Further, any entity adversely affect by such discrimination may obtain necessary equitable or legal relief through a private right of action.
There is longstanding, bipartisan, annual federal appropriations language, known as the Weldon Amendment, that offers limited protections against discrimination for health care providers which do not provide, pay for, provide coverage of, or refer for abortions. Despite this language, nurses have recently been forced to participate in gruesome dismemberment abortions and have been instructed that performing an abortion is mandatory for training or employment purposes. Beginning in 2014, California issued a directive requiring that all insurance place under the State’s authority immediately cover all legal abortions, forcing churches, religious charities, employers, and individuals to purchase abortion coverage through their health plans. In addition, the state is now requiring pregnancy care centers to post signs instructing clients where they can obtain an abortion. The Conscience Protection Act would protect health care entities from either being coerced to ignore their conscience, or forgo health insurance coverage, and would also provide a private right of action, enabling victims of government discrimination to seek redress in court.
A Congressional Budget Office (CBO) cost estimate is currently not available.
For questions or further information please contact Jake Vreeburg with the House Republican Policy Committee by email or at 5-0190.
 See Press Release, “Fleming Introduces Bill to Protect Pro-Life Health Care Providers” March 23, 2016.