Recently-introduced federal legislation would protect doctors, nurses, hospitals, and health care providers from being forced to provide abortion as part of their practice or insurance plans.  

The Conscience Protection Act, House Resolution 4828, introduced in the U.S. House of Representatives at the end of March by Rep. John Fleming, R-La., currently has 49 co-sponsors.

“As a family practice physician for over 30 years, I know for a fact that doctors and nurses are dedicated medical professionals uniquely qualified to assess the health and wellness needs of their patients,” Fleming said in a formal statement. “There is no room in the clinic for government discrimination, for Big Brother to force a health care provider to participate, in any way, in an abortion.”

Recently, 26 organizations signed a letter urging Congress to pass the legislation. The letter says:  

For example, the state of California in 2014 began demanding that all health plans under the jurisdiction of the state’s Department of Managed Health Care—even those purchased by churches and other religious organizations—cover elective abortions for any reason, including late-term abortions and those performed for reasons of  ‘sex selection.’

One of the groups that signed the letter, Alliance Defending Freedom, a Christian legal aid group, has filed two lawsuits challenging the California rule that has forced churches to pay for elective abortions in their health insurance plans.

“California is a perfect example of why this legislation is so necessary,” Casey Mattox, Alliance Defending Freedom senior counsel, told The Daily Signal. “The administration has failed to enforce federal law and churches are left paying for abortions as a result.”

Mattox wrote in in 2015:

California’s discrimination against health insurance plans that don’t include coverage for elective abortions has been prohibited by the federal Weldon Amendment for a decade. The law prohibits states receiving funds under the Labor, Health & Human Services and Education Appropriations Act from discriminating against health insurance plans that don’t cover abortion. [The California Department of Managed Health Care] has banned such plans from California. That certainly seems like “discrimination.”

Recently, congressional Republicans delayed action on President Barack Obama’s nomination of Mary Wakefield to the Department of Health and Human Services’ deputy secretary position because the administration is “dragging its feet” on an investigation to see if California has violated federal law, The Hill reported.

On Wednesday, the Justice Department sent North Carolina Gov. Pat McCrory, a Republican, a letter saying the state’s new bathroom bill, House Bill 2, violates federal law and essentially warns that the state could lose out on federal funding. McCrory signed the bill, which made government facility bathrooms accessible based on an individual’s biological sex, in March.

Yet, in California where there is a “blatant violation of federal law,” the Obama administration has not taken action “for well over a year and a half,” Alliance Defending Freedom’s Mattox told The Daily Signal.

“It further illustrates that the problem is not that the administration is trying to enforce the law in California, it has no interest in enforcing the law and that’s why we need the Conscious Protection Act,” Mattox said.

In the letter sent to Congress, the organizations write that the bill addresses loopholes in current laws. 

“Forcing a health care provider, church, private employer, or charity to violate their conscience is simply wrong,” Rep. Vicky Hartzler, R-Mo., an original co-sponsor of the Conscience Protection Act, said in a formal statement. “Caring professionals such as nurses and doctors should not be forced to perform abortions; nor should states, like California, force individuals to buy or provide insurance policies that pay for abortions.

“Our bill reinforces conscience protections already provided and offers a legal right of action to those who have been harmed by discriminatory or unlawful mandates.”

Other organizations signed onto the letter include the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, Christian Medical Association, American College of Pediatricians, Susan B. Anthony List, Family Research Council, and California Nurses for Ethical Standards.

“This would mean almost no change in the substantive policy of Congress; but it would be an enormous step forward in assuring Americans who serve the sick and needy that they can do so without being forced by government to violate their most deeply held convictions on respect for innocent human life,” the letter says.

Deirdre McQuade, assistant director for Pro-Life Communications at the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, told The Daily Signal:

Along with over two dozen other pro-life, religious, and health care organizations, the bishops of the United States are calling for passage of The Conscience Protection Act of 2016. A modest but needed measure, it will protect those who serve the sick and needy from being forced to violate their conscience and deeply held respect for human life.

The co-sponsors of the Conscience Protection Act are all Republicans, except for one Democrat, Rep. Daniel Lipinski, D-Ill.

Fleming told The Daily Signal that his goal is to bring H.R. 4828 to the House floor soon and that he hopes to see it become law.

The latest action of the bill was a referral to the Subcommittee on Health in the House Energy and Commerce Committee on March 25.