Vote Explanation for S. 304 — Conscience Protection Act

As a strong defender of a woman’s right to choose and as a member of the House Pro-Choice Caucus, I strongly opposed S.304, the Conscience Protection Act of 2016. This bill is yet another attempt by House Republicans to further limit the healthcare options for women through claims of religious or moral objections.

S. 304, which passed by a vote of 245 to 182, would prohibit federal, state, and local governments from penalizing health care providers that refuse to provide abortion coverage. This means that the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services cannot distinguish between the treatment of state or local programs that provide abortion services and those that do not.

More significantly, this bill creates a federal protection for employers who deny coverage for reproductive health services and would allow health care entities to refuse to make arrangements for abortion services. This means that a religiously-affiliated hospital would be permitted to deny an abortion to a patient even in those instances where it is medically necessary. This bill also goes so far as to protect physicians who choose to deny information about abortion coverage to patients based on their personal religious views.

The legislation not only denies women control over their own healthcare, but would also allow those entities to which they turn in a time of need — doctors and hospitals — to limit the options and information they receive based on personal views. Doctors hold a revered position in our society because they are entrusted with caring for and informing people about their health, and this bill sets a dangerous precedent of protecting religious-based and not science-based decision making in the doctor’s office.