1AP’s 3 Things to Know — H.R. 644 The Conscience Protection Act of 2017
HR 644, or the Conscience Protection Act of 2017, would codify and add to existing federal laws that prohibit government entities that receive federal funding from discriminating against health care providers who decline to participate in or cover abortion. Various types of conscientious objection protection has been enshrined in American law for centuries–read more about that here.
- Which laws are included? There are three main laws that protect conscientious objectors who do not want to participate in abortions. These are the Hyde-Weldon, Coats-Snowe, and Church amendments. Since the 1970’s, it has been both settled law and a widely-held belief that no one should be forced to participate in an abortion in violation of their conscience. However, these laws have not always been enforced.
- What’s new about this law? HR 644 adds an enforcement provision that allows individuals to defend themselves in the courts. Under the current system, people and entities whose rights have been violated are forced to file a complaint with the Office of Civil Rights at the Department of Health and Human Services. These complaints can take years to be heard, and are sometimes never heard at all. It is at the discretion of the agency, which has at times been openly hostile to conscientious objectors.
- Are there real cases of people being harmed? These amendments were signed into federal law for a reason; no person should be forced to choose between their employment and their conscience. After receiving no help from HHS, a nurse who was forced to participate in an abortion filed a lawsuit; it was dismissed for lack of standing. She and others like her have no way to defend their own rights. What we believe is fundamental to who we are, and the government should not interfere with our rights of conscience.