The House Appropriations Committee on Wednesday voted to block a new Trump administration rule allowing health workers to refuse services that violate their religious beliefs.
The measure by Rep. Barbara Lee (D-Calif.) would prevent spending to implement the new rule, which Trump announced last week during a speech before faith leaders. The broad new rule allows health-care providers, insurers and employers to refuse to provide or pay for services that violate their religious or moral beliefs, such as abortion or assisted suicide.
“This dangerous and discriminatory rule attempts to enshrine discrimination in virtually all facets of health care by granting new rights to those who believe their personal beliefs should determine the care a patient receives,” Lee said, warning that the result could be a transgender patient being denied needed medical care, or same-sex couples unable to get fertility treatments, or a rape survivor who can’t get birth control.
“Personal beliefs should never determine the care a patient receives,” Lee said.
Republicans argued against Lee’s amendment, describing it as a “poison pill” that would ensure that the broader legislation being debated Wednesday — a sweeping spending bill for the Health and Human Services, Labor and Education departments — would never become law.
“The activities of the administration aren’t denying anybody medical care. This amendment would force people to perform procedures that they find morally repelling,” said Rep. Tom Cole (R-Okla.). “This amendment would block the free exercise of civil rights of all Americans.”
Lee’s amendment passed on a party-line vote of 30-23. It was one of several abortion-related measures that sparked contentious partisan back-and-forth Wednesday, in a preview of debates to come as Congress heads toward the 2020 elections.
The underlying spending bill contains language aimed at blocking another new Trump administration rule, this one described by critics as a “gag rule” that limits the ability of health providers such as Planned Parenthood to discuss abortion as an option for patients. A GOP amendment seeking to remove that language was defeated.
And earlier in the day, Democrats defeated a GOP effort to impose new requirements related to babies born alive after attempted abortions, after emotional debate featuring a pregnant GOP congresswoman and her personal story.
Rep. Jaime Herrera Beutler (R-Wash.), who is expecting her third child at the end of this month, spoke in support of the amendment that would block funding to entities that provide abortions unless practitioners abide by certain requirements in the rare case of babies born alive after attempted abortions. The requirements include ensuring that the child is “immediately transported and admitted to a hospital.”