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NCHLA Action Center

Support Provisions Protecting Conscience Rights


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During the week of July 23, the House Appropriations Committee is expected to mark up the Fiscal Year 2013 Labor/Health and Human Services Appropriations Bill. As reported by subcommittee, the bill contains two provisions that enhance conscience protection in health care for millions of Americans.

1. Section 537 expresses the intent of the Respect for Rights of Conscience Act (H.R. 1179). Appropriated funds may not be used to enforce any provision of the new health care law that requires coverage, or facilitation of coverage, of abortion or other items or services when objected to on the basis of religious beliefs or moral convictions. It also provides for legal action to obtain relief with regard to an actual or threatened violation of this law.

Section 537 will protect a right of conscience in the face of the new contraceptive mandate that requires almost all private health plans to provide coverage for sterilization, all FDA-approved birth control (such as the IUD, Depo-Provera, ‘morning-after’ pills, and the abortion-inducing drug Ella), and “education and counseling” to promote these to all “women of reproductive capacity” including minor girls. HHS’s mandate allows only a very narrow exemption for a “religious employer.” Religious organizations providing education, health care and charitable services to all in need cannot qualify for the exemption. Religious organizations that cannot qualify for the exemption will have an extra year to comply; but before the end of that period, an additional rule will be issued to make sure that their employees receive the mandated coverage despite objections from the employer and/or employee.

2. Section 538 incorporates the Abortion Non-Discrimination Act (ANDA) (H.R. 361) into the appropriations bill. No health care entity may be forced by government to perform, participate in or pay for abortions. Examples of governmental agencies discriminating in these ways continue to grow. ANDA codifies the Hyde/Weldon Amendment that has been a part of the annual Labor/HHS appropriations bill since 2004, while enhancing its enforceability. Health care providers, for example, may initiate legal action to defend their conscience rights. Federal courts are authorized to provide the appropriate remedies needed to stop discrimination.

Cardinal DiNardo, chairman of the U.S. bishops’ Committee on Pro-Life Activities, had urged the subcommittee to approve these provisions and publicly welcomed its decision to do so. See: For a list of Appropriations Committee members, see:

ACTION: If your Representative serves on the Appropriations Committee, please contact him or her by e-mail or phone:

  • Click here to send an e-mail through NCHLA’s Grassroots Action Center. The service will automatically determine if your Representatives is a member of the Appropriations Committee.

  • Call the U.S. Capitol switchboard at: 202-224-3121, or call your Members’ local offices.

MESSAGE: “Please support the conscience protection provisions in the Labor/HHS appropriations bill, Sections 537 and 538, and oppose any attempt to delete or weaken them. Especially when it is a matter of respecting the sanctity of human life, the religious liberty and conscience rights of all participants in our nation’s health care system should be protected.”

WHEN: Immediately! The Appropriations Committee is expected to mark up the Labor/HHS appropriations bill during the week of July 23. Thanks!


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