A bill that passed the House on May 4, 2011, would provide conscience protections for people and entities that choose not to provide abortion services.
The No Taxpayer Funding for Abortion Act would make permanent an annual prohibition on using any federal money to pay for abortions. It also includes provisions that government agencies and programs "may not subject any individual or institutional 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.” The legislation allows anyone who is discriminated against to seek remedy through the courts.
The bill passed by a 251-175 vote, with all Republicans and 16 Democrats in favor.
But it needs approval in the Senate, which won't happen while Democrats are in control.
The fight over conscience protections in health care took another turn in 2012, when the Obama administration announced its rules regarding insurance coverage of contraceptives. The health care law requires most insurers to cover preventive services for free, including birth control drugs and devices, as well as sterilization procedures. Churches would be exempt.
After an outcry that the exemptions didn't go far enough, Obama announced that church-affiliated schools, universities, hospitals and charities also would not have to provide or pay for contraceptive coverage, "but their female employees could obtain such coverage directly from the employers' insurance companies at no cost,” the New York Times wrote.
Republicans, who dismissed the compromise as a meaningless accounting gimmick, introduced stronger bills aimed at ensuring that people and entities with a religious objection to birth control are not required to provide coverage of it.
The Religious Freedom Restoration Act of 2012, introduced by Ohio Rep. Steve Chabot in February, says no government regulations may "require any individual or entity to offer, provide, or purchase coverage for a contraceptive or sterilization service, or related education or counseling.”
The bill was referred to a House subcommittee on Feb. 10, 2012, and has seen no action since.
Meanwhile, the Senate voted March 1, 2012, to uphold Obama's contraceptive policy and kill the Republican effort to let employers and insurers deny coverage on religious grounds. The proposal, named the Blunt Amendment for Missouri Republican Sen. Roy Blunt, failed on a close 51-48 vote.
Republicans have tried in various ways to enact conscience protections in health care law, specifically regarding birth control and abortion. But because of Democratic opposition in the Senate, no such protections have been enacted. We rate this a Promise Broken.