Oklahoman: Cole effort to preserve 'conscience' rule fails
Oklahoman - Chris Casteel
The U.S. House rejected an amendment by Rep. Tom Cole that would have preserved the “conscience protections” for health care providers who don’t want to perform certain procedures, including abortion.
The amendment failed late Wednesday on a mostly party-line vote of 192-230.
Cole, R-Moore, and Rep. Kevin Hern, R-Tulsa were cosponsors of the amendment and voted for it, as did Reps. Frank Lucas, R-Cheyenne, and Markwayne Mullin, R-Westville. Rep. Kendra Horn, D-Oklahoma City, voted against.
The amendment came on a spending bill that includes the Health and Human Services Department.
Cole argued on the House floor Wednesday that the bill would block a new rule at the department that “protects physicians, pharmacists, nurses, teachers, students and faith-based charities who do not wish to provide, participate in, pay for, provide coverage for or refer to services such as abortion, sterilization or assisted suicide.”
He said the House bill would never clear the Senate and gain the president’s signature if the rule were blocked.
Democrats argued that the rule allowed health care providers to impose their religious beliefs on people who needed care.
Rep. Barbara Lee, D-Calif., said, “This rule could mean that rape survivors, same-sex couples, women with unintended pregnancies, those seeking life-saving abortions and transgender patients could all be refused medical care.”
According to the Health and Human Services Department, the rule, finalized in May, “protects individuals and health care entities from discrimination on the basis of their exercise of conscience in HHS-funded programs.”
Rep. David P. Roe, R-Tenn., said, “Opponents of the HHS rule will tell you that the rule is about denial of care. They will tell you that the rule is intended to allow discrimination.
“There could be nothing further from the truth. The HHS rule protects health care providers from discrimination if they choose to act according to their conscience.”
Rep. Rosa DeLauro, D-Conn., said, “Under this rule, we know women will be denied access to standard medical care. … Under this rule, we know a transgender individual can be denied medical care. For women in rural communities, small towns or in an emergency situation, the hospital or pharmacy that says ‘no’ means these women will not get the care they need.”
The spending bill, still under consideration in the House, was expected to be the source of other fights over abortion, including the longstanding Hyde Amendment, which prohibits federal funding of abortion.
However, Democratic leaders blocked an effort to strip the Hyde Amendment from the bill. They said support by Trump and the Senate of the Hyde Amendment meant the bill couldn’t become law if it were not included.
The White House has raised several other objections to the legislation and threatened a veto even with the Hyde Amendment included.