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November 21, 2004
Congress Acts To Protect Private Act Of Conscience

Congress passed its $388 billion spending authorization last night, adding in a provision that Democrats in both the House and Senate could not strip from the bill. The amendment punishes government agencies at all levels that act against doctors and insurers who refuse to provide or cover abortions:

Congress made it a little easier for hospitals, insurers and others to refuse to provide or cover abortions. A provision in a $388 billion spending bill passed by the House and Senate on Saturday would block any of the measure's money from going to federal, state or local agencies that act against health care providers and insurers because they don't provide abortions, make abortion referrals or cover them.

"This policy simply states that health care entities should not be forced to provide elective abortions, a practice to which a majority of health care providers object and which they will not perform as a matter of conscience," said Rep. David Weldon, R-Fla., a doctor who sponsored the language.

Nothing in this bill requires doctors or insurers to stop covering or providing elective abortions. It only protects those who do not wish to do so from being targeted by an increasingly intrusive bureaucracy for punishment for acting on their consciences. Needless to say, this has caused a bit of hysteria among those who believe all doctors and insurers should be forced into aborting babies regardless of their personal beliefs:

"Now any business entity can decide to tell doctors working for it they can't give information to women about their right to choose," said Sen. Barbara Boxer, D-Calif.

Many clinics and other providers, in exchange for federal funds, are required to at least tell pregnant women who do not wish to have a child that abortion is among their options. Weldon's language would make it more difficult to enforce that, opponents said.

Nonsense. First of all, doctors who wish to perform abortions can continue to do so. If the company for which they work does not choose to offer that service, the doctors can open their own practices. Doctors have a unique ability to do that (lawyers as well); as a customer-service manager, for instance, I don't have much ability to operate independently. The health-care corporations, clinics, and so on have a right to determine the services they wish to provide, and the government should not be allowed to bully them into violating their own beliefs in providing procedures they see as immoral or unsafe. If their customers dislike this, the customers can find providers to perform these services elsewhere.

In truth, pro-choice activists have become alarmed at the decline of abortion providers in the United States, calling it a crisis. Fewer and fewer doctors are willing to provide on-demand abortion; more doctors have become disillusioned with the casual abortions that now total more than 43 million since Roe v Wade. Democrats have paid lip service to making abortion "rare", in Bill Clinton's words, but the reality is that the vast majority of these 43 million dead fetuses were simply inconvenient, a matter of post-conception birth control rather than any health issue on the part of either the mother or the baby. Fewer doctors wish to work in that kind of practice. And abortion activists who have crafted laws that use government to force doctors and health insurers to cover this trade now face the loss of the one lever by which they've pressed the reluctant into service.

The Supreme Court ruled that women have the right to seek an abortion thirty-one years ago. No one has the right to force another person into performing that abortion. Congress made the right decision in adopting the Weldon amendment.

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Posted by Ed Morrissey at November 21, 2004 8:30 AM

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Tracked on November 22, 2004 11:14 AM

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