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Harris Re-introduces Conscience Protection Act to Defend Rights of Healthcare Providers

November 19, 2021
Press Release

WASHINGTON, DC: Rep. Andy Harris, M.D. (MD-01) today re-introduced 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.  Currently, enforcement of existing federal conscience statutes relies on action from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), and recent moves by the Biden Administration have made clear that they have 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.  Full text of the legislation can bePDF iconfound here.

Congressman Harris issued the following statement:

“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.  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.”

As mentioned, in an Appropriations Committee hearing this past Spring, HHS Secretary Becerra committed to Representatives Cole (R-OK) and Harris that HHS would follow the law in reference to enforcing existing conscience statutes.  Sadly recent news from Vermont indicates the federal position has changed.  In July, the Department of Justice (DOJ) mysteriously dropped a lawsuit initially filed in 2020 against the University of Vermont Medical Center after they were found to have violated existing conscience statute 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. 

In response to DOJ’s action in dropping suit, Congressman Harris co-lead a bicameral letter to HHS and the DOJ seeking an explanation.  The muted response from the Administration can bePDF iconfound here. These actions by a pro-abortion administration highlight the clear need to pass this bill.  An identical version was introduced by Senator Lankford (R-OK) in February 2021.

What others are saying about the bill:

Archbishop of Baltimore and Chairman of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops Committee on Pro-Life Activities, William E. Lori:

“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. 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. 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.”

The Honorable Marilyn Musgrave, VP of Government Affairs, Susan B. Anthony List:

“We are proud to stand with Congressman Harris – a staunch defender of unborn life and pro-life Americans – as he reintroduces the Conscience Protection Act. We’re thankful that the bill has been fortified and now includes pharmacists in its definition of “health care providers.” This is a welcome, necessary response to the Biden administration’s reckless attempts to turn every post office and pharmacy into an abortion center by forcing dangerous chemical abortion drugs on innocent women who need help and care – not a prescription for a toxic abortion cocktail. This bill rightfully empowers medical professionals to protect life, not destroy it.”

Connor Semelsberger, Director of Federal Affairs for Life and Human Dignity, at Family Research Council:

“Conscience rights for medical professionals are under threat like never before under the Biden administration. 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.”

Congressman Harris was joined by 99 other House members in introducing this legislation.  A full list of original co-sponsors is below:

Brian Babin (TX); Kat Cammack (FL); Richard Hudson (NC); Glenn Grothman (WI); Jeff Duncan (SC); Robert Aderholt (AL); Bill Posey (FL); William Timmons (SC); Doug Lamborn (CO); Ralph Norman (SC); Jody Hice (GA); Ted Budd (NC); Andy Biggs (AZ); Mary Miller (IL); Steve Chabot (OH); Alex Mooney (WV); Yvette Herrell (NM); Thomas Massie (KY); Blake Moore (UT); Buddy Carter (GA); Jeff Fortenberry (NE); Lauren Boebert (CO); Rodney Davis (IL); Gary Palmer (AL); Virginia Foxx (NC); Brian Mast (FL); Roger Williams (TX); Ashley Hinson (IA); Tim Walberg (MI); David McKinley (WV); Mike Rogers (AL); Doug LaMalfa (CA); Randy Weber (TX); Louie Gohmert (TX); Mariannette Miller-Meeks (IA); Bob Good (VA); Chip Roy (TX); Barry Moore (AL); Blaine Luetkemeyer (MO); Jake LaTurner (KS); Robert Latta (OH); Lance Gooden (TX); Lloyd Smucker (PA); Brad Wenstrup (OH); Darin LaHood (IL); Garret Graves (LA); Rick Crawford (AR); John Rutherford (FL); David Rouzer (NC); Glenn Thompson (PA); John Moolenaar (MI); Kevin Hern (OK); Peter Meijer (MI); Ben Cline (VA); Matt Rosendale (MT); Larry Bucshon (IN); Barry Loudermilk (GA); Bill Huizenga (MI); Jerry Carl (AL); Vicky Hartzler (MO); Michael Burgess (TX); Greg Pence (IN); Rick Allen (GA); David Kustoff (TN); Jack Bergman (MI); Tom Cole (OK); Jackie Walorski (IN); Fred Keller (PA); Mike Bost (IL); Debbie Lesko (AZ); Ronny Jackson (TX); Sam Graves (MO); Warren Davidson (OH); Julia Letlow (LA); Bryan Steil (WI); Joe Wilson (SC); Elise Stefanik (NY); Lisa McClain (MI); Jim Banks (IN); Tom Rice (SC); Adrian Smith (NE); Scott Fitzgerald (WI); Scott Franklin (FL); Tim Burchett (TN); Daniel Webster (FL); Mike Simpson (ID); Brett Guthrie (KY); Randy Feenstra (IA); Michael Guest (MS); Greg Steube (FL); Andrew Clyde (GA); Dan Crenshaw (TX); Guy Reschenthaler (PA); Pat Fallon (TX); Don Bacon (NE); Mario Diaz-Balart (FL); Morgan Griffith (VA); Trey Hollingsworth (IN); Mike Johnson (LA).