Last fall, Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-CA) and nine other Senators signed a letter attacking the Hyde/Weldon Conscience Protection Amendment, just before it was enacted into law (Cong. Record, Nov. 20, 2004, S11722-3). This amendment forbids governmental discrimination against health care providers who decline involvement in abortion. The letter's signers say they want the Senate to vote to rescind the law this spring. But their letter makes false and misleading charges against the law:
Claim: "This provision... would allow a broad range of health-care companies to refuse to comply with federal, state, and local laws and regulations pertaining to abortion services."
Response: The letter cites no laws to support this charge, and with good reason: No federal law requires providers to participate in abortion; in fact, many federal laws – and laws in forty-seven states – protect against such coercion. However, abortion activists have enlisted government officials in some states to exploit loopholes or circumvent protections in existing laws, to coerce providers to participate in abortions. The result has been to block some hospital mergers, force a community hospital to open its doors for late term elective abortions, and require a county hospital to provide elective abortions.
Claim: "This will mean that medical providers in hospitals and clinics across the country will likely be victims of demonstrations and intimidations as this provision allows that they be forbidden from providing abortion care to women who need it."
Response: This is both convoluted and confused. "Intimidations" by government are what the amendment guards against. And it empowers no one to "forbid" providers to provide abortions – rather, it leaves each provider the freedom to choose to do so or not. Do the signers really think that their allies will mount public demonstrations and intimidations against the 86% of U.S. hospitals that choose not to perform abortions?
Claim: "[The amendment] is harmful to women and denies women access to reproductive health services."
Response: The amendment deals only with abortion, a procedure that even many abortion advocates admit takes a human life. If these advocates nevertheless want to provide "access" to abortion, nothing in this amendment stops them. They can surely do so without coercing the consciences of health care providers who disagree.