The Other Abortion Restriction that the President Left in His Budget
You may have seen that the President did not strike the Hyde restrictions on coverage for abortion in his new budget yesterday. Unfortunately those are not the only abortion restrictions that remained in the budget.
We had also been hoping that he would strike the “Weldon Amendment” abortion restriction and thereby take a strong stand on behalf of a woman’s ability to make her own health decisions. Unfortunately, he did not.
This little known, but very dangerous, provision prevents government from “discriminating” against health care entities that refuse for any reason to provide, cover, pay for, or refer for abortion. The Weldon Amendment was added to the Labor-HHS appropriations bill in 2004, and has been added to each subsequent appropriations act. Since that time, the Weldon Amendment has posed a real threat to a woman’s health by emboldening a wide range of health care entities — from individual providers to institutions to insurance companies – to refuse to play a role in abortion services. It has also had a chilling effect on lawmakers who want to protect and promote access to abortion.
The President’s striking of the Weldon Amendment would have been an important signal that it’s time to put an end to this harmful provision. And it would have been an important signal to Congress as well. Abortion opponents there have been trying to broaden the Weldon Amendment by extending it to allow more people to refuse — like those that merely participate in health care (like schedulers at a provider’s office or ambulance drivers). They would also like to establish a private right of action under the Weldon Amendment and similar laws, which could flood the federal courts with cases. They would also like to make the Weldon Amendment permanent so they don’t have to pass it every year as part of the appropriations process, making it much harder to eliminate.
It is imperative that we stop these efforts that harm women’s access to abortion.