By Brandon Moseley
Congressman Barry Moore (R-AL02) announced on Tuesday that he is co-sponsoring the Conscience Protection Act, protecting the rights of healthcare workers from having to participate in medical activities, such as abortion, that violates their deeply held religious or moral beliefs.
“I am proud to be an original co-sponsor for the Conscience Protection Act, which would strengthen the rights of healthcare providers to object to medical procedures, namely abortion, that they hold serious moral or religious objections to,” Moore said. “No healthcare providers should be forced by their employers to carry out a medical procedure against their moral and religious objections. This administration has no right to force a medical professional to terminate the life of an innocent child against their moral and religious objections.”
Alabama Congressmen Robert Aderholt (R-AL04), Gary Palmer (R-AL06), Mike Rogers (R-AL03), and Jerry Carl (R-AL01) are also original co-sponsors of Rep. Andy Harris', M.D. (R-Maryland) legislation.
Currently, enforcement of existing Federal Conscience Statutes relies on action from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS). Supporters of freedom of conscience rights for healthcare professionals are concerned by recent moves by the Biden Administration, which they say has little interest in protecting employees from discrimination should they morally or religiously object to participating in certain medical procedures.
The Conscience Protection Act would, among other provisions, provide a private right of action for employees to defend their conscience rights in court by suing their employer if punished or terminated for registering moral or religious objections.
“Defending the conscience rights of healthcare providers should be of great interest to all Americans, and is of grave importance to me as a physician, especially in light of recent failures to do so by the Biden Administration,” Harris said in a statement. “Secretary Becerra had committed to House Appropriators that he would ensure the protection of the legal rights of conscience for providers – but sadly this has not occurred. Therefore, this bill is necessary to dissuade employers from threatening or taking retaliation for actions by healthcare providers that should be, but aren’t being, protected by this administration.”
Harris said that recent news from Vermont indicates the federal position has changed. In July, the Department of Justice (DOJ) dropped a lawsuit initially filed in 2020 against the University of Vermont Medical Center after they were found to have violated existing conscience statutes on multiple occasions. Specifically, the investigation by HHS revealed that UVMMC scheduled approximately 10 nurses to assist with approximately 20 abortions despite their registered conscience objections, in clear violation of existing law.
Archbishop William E. Lori of Baltimore is the Chairman of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops Committee on Pro-Life Activities.
“It is hard to imagine a more blatant civil rights violation than being forced to abandon your beliefs and take part in ending an innocent human life,” Bishop Lori said. “HHS found that the University of Vermont Medical Center forced a nurse, against her known religious beliefs, to do just that. This is not only fundamentally wrong, but a direct violation of federal law. Yet the Department of Justice voluntarily dismissed the case against UVMC.
“We have said before that the need for the Conscience Protection Act cannot be questioned. The need is more vital now than ever,” Lori continued. “The Department of Justice is clearly signaling that conscience rights violations in health care can be violated with impunity. We call on Congress to stand up for the basic dignity of our nation’s health care workers and pass the Conscience Protection Act so that doctors and nurses can defend their own rights in court.”
Connor Semelsberger is the Director of Federal Affairs for Life and Human Dignity at the Family Research Council.
“Conscience rights for medical professionals are under threat like never before under the Biden administration,” Semelsberger said. “No health care practitioner, no matter who is president, should be forced to perform abortions or sterilization procedures against their conscience. Thank you to Representative Harris for introducing legislation to ensure medical professionals are protected regardless of who is in charge of enforcing conscience laws.”
An identical version of this bill was introduced by U.S. Sen. Lankford (R-Oklahoma) in February 2021.
"The Conscience Protection Act will ensure that health providers have the ability to defend their religious or moral beliefs without fear of discrimination," said Lankford. "This bill is necessary to give health care providers the right to provide medical care without violating their deeply held beliefs. Americans have very different views about abortion, but we should not force anyone to participate in it.”
Barry Moore is serving in his first term representing Alabama’s Second Congressional District.