Spending Bill Provision Allowing Health Care Providers to Refuse Abortion Services Likely to Pass

One pro-life group is very pleased that the House is expected to pass on Saturday a $388 spending bill that contains a provision barring state and local governments that receive federal health and human services funds from discriminating against health care providers because they do not provide abortions, pay for abortions, provide coverage of abortions, or refer for abortions.

Douglas Johnson, legislative director for National Right to Life, said, "National Right to Life commends the congressional Republican leadership for this important new law, which will prevent state and local government officials from compelling health care providers to participate in killing unborn children."

Several female senators opposed the provision saying it limited a woman’s right to an abortion.

NARAL Pro-Choice America Interim President Elizabeth Cavendish accused conservative lawmakers of slipping the provision in the bill.

“This move highlights the true agenda of the far right, which controls Congress and the White House - eliminating a woman’s right to choose. However, they do so in a sneaky back-door fashion because they know the majority of Americans are pro-choice and would not stand for such infringements on their rights," Cavendish said in a Nov. 19 press release.

The provision, called "Hyde-Weldon anti-discrimination amendment” after Congressman Henry Hyde (R-Il.) and Congressman Dave Weldon (R-Fl), is the same provision extended to Catholic hospitals. The House Appropriations Committee and the full House approved it last summer, according to NRL.

The White House also supports the amendment and sent on Wednesday a letter to House Appropriations Committee Chairman Bill Young, saying the Administration "strongly supports language added by the House to ensure that health care providers are not discriminated against because they do not provide, pay for, or cover abortions."

Some Congressmen have interpreted the House leaders' insistence as reflection of the new strength of the pro-life movement and Christian conservatives, who played an important role in re-electing Bush, reported a New York Times article.

"It's something we've had a longstanding interest in," said Johnson in the same article. "This is in response to an orchestrated campaign by pro-abortion groups across the country to use government agencies to coerce health-care providers to participate in abortions."

The complete text of the Hyde-Weldon provision follows:

(1) None of the funds made available in this Act may be made available to a Federal agency or program, or to a State or local government, if such agency, program, or government subjects any institutional or individual health care entity to discrimination on the basis that the health care entity does not provide, pay for, provide coverage of, or refer for abortions. (2) In this subsection, the term "health care entity" includes an individual physician or other health care professional, a hospital, a provider-sponsored organization, a health maintenance organization, a health insurance plan, or any other kind of health care facility, organization, or plan.