Senator Lankford introduces Conscience Protection Act

WASHINGTON, DC – Senator James Lankford (R-OK) introduced S. 183, the Conscience Protection Act, to protect healthcare providers, including health care professionals, entities, and health 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 discrimination.  

“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. I am grateful for the Trump Administration’s work to help enforce conscience protection laws and preserve Americans’ right to religious liberty.”

Lankford has been an active voice in the protection of life and religious freedom. Last year, he applauded the Trump Administration’s creation of the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) Conscience and Religious Freedom Division within the Office for Civil Rights (OCR), which enables the Agency to better process and enforce laws to protect freedoms of conscience and religion for individuals across the country. Additionally, on July 30, the Department of Justice (DOJ) announce a Religious Liberty Task to help the Department fully implement its religious liberty guidance by ensuring that all DOJ components uphold that guidance in the cases they bring and defend, the arguments they make in court, the policies and regulations they adopt, and how operations are conducted. 

Currently, if a health care provider, including insurance plans, refuses to provide abortions, the only recourse is to file a complaint with 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. Then on January 26, 2018, HHS issued a proposed rule entitled “Protecting Statutory Conscience Rights In Health Care,” that would clarify and enforce the more than 25 conscience protection laws that Congress has already enacted. 

Today, the OCR found California in violation of conscience rights by discriminating against pregnancy resource centers.