Protection of Conscience Project
Protection of Conscience Project
Service, not Servitude

Service, not Servitude

'Pro-choice' groups attack freedom to choose

USA (November, 2004)

Sean Murphy*


The Abortion Non-Discrimination Act passed the House of Representatives on 25 September, 2002 and was first introduced in the Senate as S.2008 in March, 2002.  It was re-introduced, with additional sponsors, in July, 2003, but failed to progress.  It was added by congressmen Henry Hyde and Dave Weldon as an amendment to an omnibus spending bill, which passed the House of Representatives in November, 2004.

The amendment, which might be said to protect freedom of choice for health care workers, was attacked by ostensibly 'pro-choice' groups, including Planned Parenthood, the National Organization for Women (NOW) and the National Abortion Rights Action League (NARAL).   The text of their statements appears below in the left column.  Project commentary appears to the right, with relevant links.

It is clear that these groups are among those determined to suppress freedom of conscience among health care workers in the United States.

So-Called "Abortion Non-Discrimination Act" Threatens Women's Health
Sweeping Refusal Clause Strips State Autonomy And Jeopardizes Women's Reproductive Health

Planned Parenthood News Release
December 8, 2004

Project Commentary

Washington, DC — Planned Parenthood Federation of America (PPFA) today challenged President Bush's signing of the Weldon Amendment, or so-called "Abortion Non-Discrimination Act" (ANDA).

Women's health - including reproductive health - depends on much more than the provision of abortion. However, abortion will continue to be available from any health care entity willing to provide it.

The legislation, originally proposed by the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops and added as an amendment to the final version of the omnibus appropriations bill, will allow health care organizations to refuse to comply with existing federal, state or local laws pertaining to abortion.

ANDA was originally proposed in 2002 by several legislators.  It was supported by the US Conference of Catholic Bishops and other organizations which respect freedom of conscience.

Most existing state and federal laws do not compel health care workers to participate in abortion.  In fact, conscientious objection to abortion is legally protected in most states.  The amendment is aimed at reinforcing existing law by responding to attacks on freedom of conscience by groups like Planned Parenthood.

"This amendment's Orwellian name makes it sound as if it protects women seeking abortions from discrimination. In fact, it discriminates against them," said PPFA President Gloria Feldt.

Women who want abortions will continue to be able to obtain them from health care workers and institutions willing to provide them.  Their freedom of choice is respected.

 "It also discriminates against health care providers as well as state and local governments that want to provide comprehensive women's health care. It allows any health care provider or institution, religious or otherwise, to refuse to provide a much-needed reproductive health care service."

Health care providers who want to provide abortion can continue to do so.  The only thing discouraged by the amendment is the coercion of  health care providers to force them to provide or facilitate abortion.  

"The vast majority of Americans oppose allowing health care entities to deny services to women, even if those entities claim their refusal is based on religious or moral grounds, which ANDA does not require."

It is unlikely that most Americans would force health care workers to participate in abortion.  Were Planned Parenthood successful in it campaign to force health care workers to participate in abortion, it would set a dangerous precedent for assisted suicide, euthanasia, and artificial reproductive technology.

"This sweeping federal refusal clause will allow the whims of a corporate entity to trump the conscience and very real medical needs of women nationwide."

Planned Parenthood is a corporate entity.  Like all corporate entities and human organizations, it has policies that reflect the morality and goals of its members.  ANDA makes it more difficult for Planned Parenthood to impose its morality and goals on unwilling health care workers nationwide.

"Simply put, you ought to be able to trust your doctor or hospital to give you a full range of options and respect your health care choices. ANDA lets them discriminate against you."

Health care providers who wish to provide or facilitate abortions will continue to be be able to do so.  Patients will not be prevented from seeking them out or requesting their assistance.

ANDA was added to the appropriations bill by anti-choice Rep. Dave Weldon (R-FL). The bill provides a sweeping exemption from existing laws relating to safe and legal abortion services.

Most existing laws do not compel health care workers to participate in abortion.  Most states have laws that recognize conscientious objection to abortion, but these are unevenly drafted and under attack by groups like Planned Parenthood.

Health care entities, as defined by the law, include hospitals, provider-sponsored organizations, health maintenance organizations, health insurance plans or any other kind of health care facilities, organizations or plans.


Feldt said, "PPFA and others will be working to see the law blocked in the courts or repealed in Congress, where Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist (R-TN) has promised Senator Barbara Boxer (D-CA) a vote to repeal the bill.  We will also continue to work with our allies in Congress and across the pro-choice movement to strengthen legislative protections on reproductive rights and health through measures like the Putting Prevention First Act (PPFA), which promotes family planning programs.

It appears that Planned Parenthood is working to see freedom of conscience completely suppressed for health care workers.

"If ANDA's anti-choice supporters really cared about preventing abortions, they would help us do more to support family planning instead of penalizing women and service providers with vague, unfair, and dangerous legislation."

If Planned Parenthood really cared about freedom of choice, it would respect the choices of health care workers and institutions that choose not to provide or facilitate abortions.

ANDA does not prevent anyone from helping Planned Parenthood to achieve its goals - except the goal of forcing people to assist in or facilitate abortion.


Republican Legislators Reward Radical Right with Dangerous Anti-Abortion Provision
National Organization for Women (NOW)
News Release, November 22, 2004
Project Commentary

Legal recognition and protection of freedom of conscience is not a 'reward' in a liberal democracy, but a reasonable expectation of citizenship.

The amendment (ANDA) does not prevent abortions.  It discourages coercion of health care workers.

After heated debate in Congress Saturday night, anti-abortion legislators bullied into law broad new limitations on women's reproductive health care.

The passage of legislation by majority vote after a debate in an elected legislature is not bullying.  It is an ordinary proceeding in democratic government.

The sweeping language, which was slipped into the massive budget bill, makes all health care providers eligible for federal dollars — regardless of their unwillingness to provide a full-range of health care services for women.

Federal dollars are equally available to those who provide abortion and those who do not.

Federal dollars would be denied only to authorities that deny freedom of conscience to health care workers. 

House and Senate Republicans added this language to the 1,000 plus page spending bill late in the afternoon on Friday — allowing no time for reproductive rights supporters to react to the sudden attack. The National Organization for Women is appalled by this tactic, a despicable move by the Republican leadership to thank its right-wing base by surrendering hard-fought and often life-saving medical care options for women and girls.


The people who will benefit from this provision are health care workers who wish to live and work in accordance with their conscientious convictions.  Presumably this includes supporters of both of the main US political parties.

"Right-wing legislators are sacrificing legal health care and jeopardizing women's health to please their base," said NOW President Kim Gandy. "This is a hypocritical act of the so-called party of 'moral values' and 'compassionate conservatism.'"

The NOW president appears to miss the hypocrisy involved in claiming to be 'pro-choice' while denying the freedom to choose to anyone who disagrees with her.

Abortion continues to be available from any willing health care provider.  If NOW is concerned that present availability of abortion is not sufficient, it should deal with the problem without asking the government to coerce or discriminate against those unwilling to do what NOW wants done.

The provision permits health care entities that refuse to provide abortion services, counseling or referrals (even in cases of rape, incest, or danger to the woman's life) to collect federal, state and local tax dollars. It overrules state and local regulations requiring full coverage for such services.

It also permits entities that provide all of these services to collect tax dollars. 

Tax dollars are denied only to those who suppress the freedom of conscience of health care workers.

Current federal law, previously aimed at protecting Roman Catholic doctors who do not want to undergo abortion training or perform abortions, now provides a farther-reaching 'conscience clause.' The new language expands the exemption to all health care providers, including hospitals, doctors, clinics, HMOs, and insurers that profess a corporate or individual objection to providing abortion or reproductive health services.

This appears to reflect anti-Catholic bigotry, inasmuch as Roman Catholic doctors are hardly the only faith group opposed to abortion.  The Protection of Conscience Project Advisory Board includes representatives from different faith traditioins.  Even atheists may be opposed to it for moral reasons.

"This will allow HMO bureaucrats to deny women their constitutional right to reproductive health care," said Gandy. "The wrath of the anti-abortion movement is going to send women back farther than the back alleys — we're heading toward the black market."

There is no constitutional right to compel another person to perform or facilitate an abortion.  There is a constitutional right to freedom of conscience; NOW bureaucrats should not deny it to their fellow citizens.

Abortion - supported even by tax dollars - will continue to be available through any willing health care provider.  Back alleys, black markets and purple prose are unnecessary.

Sen. Barbara Boxer, D-Calif., courageously threatened to use procedural tactics to slow Senate debate in protest. Joining Boxer in defending women's health care against the Republican leadership were Sen. Tom Harkin, D-Iowa, Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., and Sen. Olympia Snowe, R-Maine. A compromise was eventually reached with Senate Majority Bill Frist, R-Tenn., after he promised to schedule a vote on the abortion provision when Congress meets next spring. It seems unlikely, however, that this provision will be overturned, since it takes many more votes to repeal an existing law than to prevent original passage.

Why this would have been courageous is not explained.  It is unlikely that anyone would have fired Senator Boxer for pursuing her conscientious convictions.

"This is just the beginning of a battle to save women's reproductive health care," said Gandy. "We are calling on all NOW activists and supporters to help us stop this sacrifice of women's bodies and women's rights to repay political favors to a vocal minority."

Freedom of conscience is part of the birthright of all citizens in a liberal democracy, not a 'political favour' to be granted or denied by political activists from any part of the political spectrum.

Stealth Anti-Choice Provision Prevails
Congress to vote on Omnibus Spending Bill
National Abortion Rights Action League (NARAL) News Release
November 19, 2004 Commentary
Project Commentary

Washington, DC) - In an outrageous back-room maneuver, anti-choice legislators inserted a major new restriction on women’s freedom into an omnibus spending bill. This latest move ensures that a significant piece of the anti-choice agenda will become law without a single hearing or an independent vote in the Senate.

Preventing coercion of health care workers is not "a major new restriction on women's freedom."free to seeWomen continue to be free to seek and obtain abortions  They should not be "free" to force others to provide them.

The measure at issue is a Federal Refusal Clause allowing HMOs, for-profit hospitals and other health care companies to bar physicians from even talking to their patients about abortion.  

Physicians remain free to discuss abortion with patients, but the amendment insures that they cannot be forced to recommend, provide or facilitate the procedure. 

The House included the Federal Refusal Clause as a "rider" on a massive health funding bill earlier this year, but the Senate did not go along with the stealth strategy. In the closed-door negotiations this week, however, anti-choice lawmakers slipped it into the larger omnibus appropriations legislation. This measure is the third major piece of the anti-choice agenda the Bush crowd has gotten through in 12 months.

It is difficult to see how something agreed to in negotiations between the two political parties could be said to have been 'slipped in.'

The Federal Refusal Clause, essentially a backdoor gag rule, is not restricted to the actual abortion services, but also allows companies not to pay for abortions, counsel, or even refer women clients to another doctor.

No person of integrity wishes to recommend, facilitate or pay for an act that he finds morally objectionable, whether it be abortion, torture, assisted suicide or euthanasia

Further, the proposal strips funds from federal programs, or state or local governments, merely because they attempt to enforce their laws or policies.

The amendment threatens only programmes or agencies that try to force health care workers to provide or facilitate abortion.

NARAL Pro-Choice America Interim President Elizabeth Cavendish said, “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. ”

The amendment does not eliminate a woman's right to choose.  Women remain free to choose abortion if they wish. The amendment guarantees freedom of choice for health care workers who do not want to participate in abortion. The majority of Americans are probably pro-choice on this issue, even if NARAL is not.