A Colorado bill that would have outlawed all abortions in the state has died in committee, the Denver Post reports. Calling the bill “too extreme” the House committee voted 7 to 4 to kill the bill, with one Republican joining the six Democrats to table the proposal. Rep. Humphry’s blanket abortion ban is just one of a handful of legislative bills being considered this session, including a ban on “gender” based abortions and a ban on entities that provide or refer for abortions from receiving any taxpayer funding.
During a CNN town hall on Tuesday night, House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-WI) pushed falsehoods about the anti-abortion provisions at the center of the recent U.S. Supreme Court decision in Whole Woman’s Health v. Hellerstedt being necessary for patient health and safety. Ryan nonsensically then used the decision as a launch point to promote House Republicans’ Conscience Protection Act, which passed in the House Wednesday evening and supposedly shields those who object to abortion from discrimination. The only things Texas’ provisions and the legislation have in common, however, is that they’re all about blocking access to abortion care.
Town hall audience member and executive director of New Jersey Right to Life Marie Tasy claimed during the event Tuesday that the Supreme Court had struck down “commonsense health and safety standards at abortion clinics,” in its landmark ruling against two provisions—the admitting privileges and surgical center requirements—of Texas’ HB 2.
“Absolutely,” Ryan said in response to Tasy’s remarks. “I agree with that.”
But the provisions of the law in question were not about keeping anybody safe. As Justice Stephen Breyer noted in the opinion declaring them unconstitutional, “When directly asked at oral argument whether Texas knew of a single instance in which the new requirement would have helped even one woman obtain better treatment, Texas admitted that there was no evidence in the record of such a case.”
All the provisions actually did, according to Breyer on behalf of the Court majority, was put “a substantial obstacle in the path of women seeking a previability abortion,” and “constitute an undue burden on abortion access.”
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Despite this, Ryan then used the falsehood at the center of HB 2 as a call to action for yet another anti-choice restriction: the Conscience Protection Act. After fielding the question from Tasy about how anti-choice issues could be advanced in Congress in the wake of the Court’s decision, Ryan pivoted to claim that the government is “forcing people to conduct [abortion] procedures”:
Actually, tomorrow we are bringing a bill that I’ve been working on called the Conscience Protection Act. I’m pro-life. I think you probably know that. And I would like to think we could at least get consensus in this country that taxpayers shouldn’t be funding abortions. That the government shouldn’t be forcing people to conduct procedures, especially health-care workers, against their own conscience.
Our First Amendment is the right of conscience, religious freedom. Yet our own government today, particularly in California, is violating that right and not allowing people to protect their conscience rights, whether they’re Catholic hospitals or doctors or nurses. Tomorrow we’re bringing the Conscience Protection Act to the floor and passing it. It’s Diane Black’s bill. And it is to give those citizens in America who want to protect their conscience rights their ability to defend those rights. That is one thing we’re doing tomorrow to protect the conscience, because I believe we need to cultivate a culture of life. And at the very least, stop the government from violating our conscience rights.
Ryan would go on to make similar remarks the next day while speaking on behalf of the bill on the House floor, though this time he added that the “bill does not ban or restrict abortion in any way …. All it does is protect a person’s conscience.”
As Rewire‘s Christine Grimaldi previously reported, the Conscience Protection Act would codify and expand on the Weldon Amendment. According to the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), the amendment prohibits states that receive federal family planning funding from discriminating against any health care entity-including physicians, health-care professionals, hospitals, and insurance plans, “on the basis that the health care entity does not provide, pay for, provide coverage of, or refer for abortions.”
The Weldon Amendment currently must be passed each year as part of annual appropriations bills.
Grimaldi noted that the act “would give health-care providers a private right of action to seek civil damages in court, should they face alleged coercion or discrimination stemming from their refusal to assist in abortion care.”
Ryan proposed similar conscience protections as part of his recently released health-care plan, though, as Grimaldi wrote, “the Conscience Protection Act goes a step further, allowing providers to sue not only for threats, but also for perceived threats.”
But those whom Ryan and his colleagues are claiming to defend already have protections that impede access to abortion care, according to critics of the measure.
Ryan, for example, suggested in both his CNN appearance and his House floor speech the next day that California’s requirement that insurance plans must cover elective abortions under “basic health services” violates “religious freedom.” But a June investigation by the HHS Office for Civil Rights into whether California’s requirement violated the Weldon Amendment rejected similar complaints by anti-choice group Alliance Defending Freedom.
“Let’s be very clear—right now, current law says that hospitals, insurers, and doctors may refuse to perform an abortion or provide coverage for abortion, which already greatly limits women’s access to legal procedures,” said Rep. Jan Schakowsky (D-IL) Wednesday, speaking after Ryan on the House floor during remarks before the Conscience Protection Act passed.
“More importantly, when a woman’s health is in danger, providers would not be required to act to protect the health of that mother. This bill would allow them to refuse to … facilitate or make arrangements for abortion if they have a moral objection to it,” continued Schakowsky. “They could also refuse to provide transportation to another hospital if a woman is in distress if that hospital provides abortions.”
Debra L. Ness, president of the National Partnership for Women & Families, explained in a statement following the passage of the legislation in the House that the measure is about blocking access to abortion. “The Conscience Protection Act is dangerous, discriminatory legislation designed to block women’s access to abortion care,” said Ness.
“For example, a hospital could rely on the Conscience Protection Act to turn away a woman in an emergency situation who needs an abortion or refuse to provide a woman information about her treatment options. This legislation is a license for providers to discriminate against women and undermine their access to essential, constitutionally protected health care,” Ness said.
A federal judge has blocked several provisions of an omnibus anti-abortion law that would have placed restrictions on the circumstances under which a pregnant person could decide to terminate their pregnancy.
Judge Tanya Walton Pratt of the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Indiana granted a preliminary injunction against the law‘s final disposition and sex, race, and genetic anomalies ban on Thursday, just a day before the law was to take effect.
Planned Parenthood of Indiana and Kentucky worked with the American Civil Liberties Union of Indiana to file a lawsuit and request an injunction in April, according to a local ABC affiliate.
Under the provisions halted by the injunction, pregnant persons across the state would have been banned from aborting a fetus based on an abnormality or race or gender-related reasons, among others.
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The Indiana General Assembly passed the law, also known as House Enrolled Act 1337, in March. Indiana Gov. Mike Pence, a Republican, signed the act shortly thereafter that month.
A similar bill failed to pass in the Indiana legislature last year. The version Pence signed this spring included a mandatory ultrasound requirement, a provision targeting fetal tissue donation, and a measure requiring physicians to provide information about hospice care to a pregnant person “who is considering an abortion because the fetus has been diagnosed with a lethal anomaly,” as previously reported by Rewire.
Reproductive health groups have said the notion of race and sex-selection abortions are based on misinformation, and disability advocates have said that HEA 1337 promotes speculation among physicians and perpetuates false narratives about the disabled community.
In her concluding statement, Pratt cited Roe v. Wade and Planned Parenthood v. Casey and said that the Supreme Court has made it clear a state “may not prohibit any woman for making the ultimate decision to terminate her pregnancy before viability.”
She went on to say the law’s information dissemination provision was “likely unconstitutional” as it requires abortion providers to convey false information regarding anti-discrimination provisions to their patients.
John Zody, chairman of the Indiana Democratic Party, called HEA 1337 “a harmful piece of legislation” and noted that legislators from both parties had criticized the measure, in a statement on Thursday.
“Today’s ruling by a federal judge emphasizes just how out of touch Gov. Pence’s ideology is with everyday Hoosiers and the law. The governor’s political agenda has caused real harm to the state’s already sluggish economy while also putting our reputations in further jeopardy,” Zody said.
Indiana Right to Life panned Pratt’s decision and noted that she blocked provisions of an Indiana law that denied taxpayer funds to abortion businesses and required that pregnant people be informed about a fetus’ so-called ability to feel pain in 2011.
The notion of fetal pain, as promoted by Stanford University School of Medicine professor Dr. Kanwaljeet “Sunny” Anand, was debunked in an article published by the Journal of the American Medical Association in 2005.
The fetal anomaly law was among nine laws set to go into effect on Friday, according to the Indianapolis Star. One of the nine bills includes a law instituting new guidelines on police body and dashboard camera footage that will allow local police departments to decide whether it will release videos. Members of the public will be allowed to appeal a police department request for footage, according to the Star.