Lankford Works to Protect Health Care Workers from Discrimination If They Do Not Perform Abortions

WASHINGTON, DC – Senator James Lankford (R-OK) introduced the Conscience Protection Act to protect health care providers and insurance plans from government discrimination if they decline to participate in abortions. The Conscience Protection Act also provides a private right of action for victims of conscience discrimination because the Biden Administration refuses to enforce existing conscience protections. 

“The Biden Administration’s failure to enforce conscience protections makes health care workers decide if they should lose their job or violate their beliefs by performing an abortion. Many health care professionals went into their careers to protect life, not take life. Doctors and nurses should never have to make the choice between their career and their conscience. The Conscience Protection Act defends health care workers and empowers them to stand by convictions as they care for their community,” said Lankford.

Lankford first introduced the Conscience Protect Act in 2019 and again in 2021. He spoke on the Senate floor after Democrats blocked his bill to ensure all Americans have their conscience rights protected.

Lankford is joined on the bill by Senators Kevin Cramer (R-ND), Steve Daines (R-MT), John Hoeven (R-ND), Marco Rubio (R-FL), Jim Risch (R-ID), Jerry Moran (R-KS), Mike Crapo (R-ID), Cynthia Lummis (R-WY), Marsha Blackburn (R-TN), Mike Rounds (R-SD), Josh Hawley (R-MO), John Thune (R-SD), Pete Ricketts (R-NE), Cindy Hyde-Smith (R-MS), Deb Fischer (R-NE), and Joni Ernst (R-IA). Representative Jim Banks (R-IN) is introducing this bill in the House of Representatives.

This legislation is also supported by Susan B. Anthony Pro-Life America, American Association of Pro-Life Obstetricians and Gynecologists Action, US Conference of Catholic Bishops, Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission of the Southern Baptist Convention, Alliance Defending Freedom, National Right to Life Committee, EPPC’s HHS Accountability Project, Heritage Action, CatholicVote, Americans United for Life, Concerned Women for America Legislative Action Committee, Family Policy Alliance, and March for Life.


Currently, if a health care provider, including insurance plans, refuses to provide abortions, the only recourse is to file a complaint with the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) Office for Civil Rights (OCR). 

In 2014, California required that health plans must cover abortions, which forced religious employers to offer plans that violate their religious beliefs. In December 2014 under the Obama Administration, HHS opened an investigation, and in spite of then-current laws protecting conscience rights, in June 2016, HHS declared that California could force all its health plans to cover elective abortions, which President Biden’s nominee for HHS Secretary has advocated for and enforced as Attorney General of California.

The Trump Administration took several actions to enforce current law and protect conscience: (1) created the Conscience and Religious Freedom Division, (2) partnered with the Department of Justice to notice and enforce conscience violations in Vermont and California, resulting in the disallowance of $200 million per quarter from the state due to Attorney General Becerra’s refusal to comply with the law, and (3) issued the final rule “Protecting Statutory Conscience Rights In Health Care” to enforce existing statutory protections, which Lankford supported. Unfortunately, a federal court vacated the conscience rule in November 2019. Litigation on the final rule continued at the Second Circuit in New York v. HHSandseventy-eight Members of Congress filed an amicus brief led by Senator Lankford in the case.

In response to the Biden Administration’s proposed rule that would insufficiently enforce conscience protections for medical professionals, Lankford led his colleagues in filing a public comment letter demanding greater implementation and enforcement of all of the statutory conscience protections enacted by Congress, as reflected in the previous rule issued under the Trump Administration.