(CNSNews.com) - The U.S. House of Representatives voted 245-182 today to pass the Conscience Protection Act, which prohibits government from discriminating against health-care providers who do not want to perform or cooperate in abortions.
The bill also gives such health-care providers the power to bring civil action if they are targeted by such discrimination.
The key section in the bill states that "the Federal Government, and any State or local government that receives Federal financial assistance, may not penalize, retaliate against, or otherwise discriminate against a health care provider on the basis that the provider does not (1) perform, refer for, pay for, or otherwise participate in abortion; 3 (2) provide or sponsor abortion coverage; or (3) facilitate or make arrangements for any of the activities specified in this subsection."
Rep. Diane Black of Tennessee sponsored the bill.
“Congress must step in to clarify and strengthen our laws so that the conscience rights of every American are protected, because...if we lose the right to live according to our own convictions, particularly on a matter as deeply affecting as abortion, we don’t have much left do we?” she said in a speech on the House floor.
House Speaker Paul Ryan also spoke in defense of the bill.
"There have been cases of nurses being suspended or threatened with firing solely for the offense of following their conscience," Ryan said. "And now, the state of California requires all health insurance plans to cover abortion. So if you’re a church or a religious school, it doesn’t matter. You must cover this procedure. And if it violates your conscience, too bad."
"But whoever you are--whatever you believe--I think this is one thing we can all agree on," Ryan said. "No one should be forced to violate their conscience--least of all by the federal government. That’s all this bill says. The federal government--or anyone who receives taxpayer dollars--cannot discriminate against health care providers who do not perform abortions. And if they do discriminate, this bill says the victims will have two avenues of relief: Either, file a complaint with the Department of Health and Human Services. Or, file a civil suit in court. That’s all this bill does."