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Senator Lankford, Reps. Black and Fortenberry Introduce Conscience Protection Act

WASHINGTON, DC – Senator James Lankford (R-OK) and Congressmen Diane Black (R-TN) and Jeff Fortenberry (R-NE) have introduced the Conscience Protection Act in the Senate and House. The Conscience Protection Act is a bill that protects health care providers, including health care professionals, entities and health insurance plans from government discrimination if they decline to participate in abortions. 

“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 needed 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 or provide coverage.”

“Being an American has always meant experiencing the freedom to live by the dictates of one’s deeply held beliefs at home, at work, and in the public square,” said Congresswoman Black. “But too often today, pro-life Americans are denied that same opportunity. With states like California and New York enforcing abortion mandates in state insurance coverage and instances of health care workers like Cathy Cenzon-Decarlo being forced to violate their beliefs on the dignity of life as a condition of keeping their job, Congress is compelled to act. I am proud to join with Senator Lankford and Congressman Fortenberry on this critical effort protecting pro-life Americans from penalty or discrimination for simply living out their beliefs,”

“Conscience is the sacred space of human dignity where persons exercise their sincerely held, reasoned beliefs,” said Congressman Fortenberry. “It is a true poverty that this most cherished American principle is under assault, violating the good of persons and communities. The Conscience Protection Act will enable health care professionals and organizations to serve by their core convictions without coercion.”

Currently, if a health care provider, including insurance plans, refuses to provide abortions, the only recourse is to file a complaint with the Office of Civil Rights at the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS). In 2014, California started requiring health plans cover abortions, which forced religious employers to offer plans that violate their religious beliefs. In December 2014, an investigation was opened by HHS and, in spite of current federal law, in June 2016, they declared that California can force all of its health plans to cover elective abortions. The Conscience Protection Act provides a right of action for victims of discrimination.  

Reps. Black and Fortenberry introduced this legislation in the House during the previous session; it passed the House in July 2016 by a bipartisan vote of 245-182. Lankford introduced the bill in the Senate last May, but it did not receive a vote in the Senate last session.

Lankford has been an active voice in the protection of life and religious freedom. Last year, Lankford introduced the Health Care Conscience Rights Act, which ensures organizations, private businesses, institutions of higher education, health care providers, and insurance companies are not forced to sponsor insurance coverage that violates their religious or moral beliefs.