House Committee Approves Amendment That Would Deny Funds to Agencies That Act Against Insurers for Not Covering Abortion Services
The House Appropriations Committee on Wednesday approved by a voice vote an amendment to the fiscal year 2005 spending bill covering HHS, the Department of Labor and the Department of Education, that would deny funding to federal, state or local agencies that act against health care providers or insurers for refusing to cover abortion services, provide abortions or give abortion referrals, the AP/Las Vegas Sun reports (Fram, AP/Las Vegas Sun, 7/14). Rep. Dave Weldon (R-Fla.), the amendment's sponsor, said that the proposal would expand the 1976 Hyde amendment that barred federal funding for abortions, according to Congressional Quarterly. Weldon said that the amendment is necessary because some state courts and legislatures prevent hospitals that refuse to provide abortion services -- including Catholic hospitals -- from taking over medical clinics that provide abortions (Swindell, Congressional Quarterly, 7/14). "This is an issue of conscience," Weldon said. Many health care providers as a condition for receiving federal funds are required to "at least" inform pregnant women that abortion is "among their options," according to the AP/Sun. However, Weldon's amendment would make this requirement more difficult for the government to enforce, the AP/Sun reports (AP/Las Vegas Sun, 7/14).
Rep. Nita Lowey (D-N.Y.) tried to "annul" Weldon's amendment by attaching an amendment that would have prevented health care providers from withholding "medically appropriate information or services from a patient," according to CongressDaily. Lowey's amendment was defeated by a voice vote (Hess, CongressDaily, 7/15). Lowey said that Weldon's amendment would be a "gag order on physicians ... to be able to give patients the full range of options," according to Reuters (Reuters, 7/14). The full House is not likely to take up the FY 2005 Labor-HHS spending bill until after the summer recess, according to CongressDaily (Cohn, CongressDaily, 7/15). It is "not likely" that the Senate will approve Weldon's amendment to the measure, according to Congressional Quarterly (Congressional Quarterly, 7/14).This is part of the California Healthline Daily Edition, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.