WASHINGTON, July 14 (UPI) -- The House passed a controversial bill Wednesday that supporters say will protect the rights of health care workers and others who oppose abortion.
The Conscience Protection Act, passed along party lines 245-182, would shield those who refuse to perform, assist or fund abortions. The bill's chief sponsor, Rep. Diane Black, R-Tenn., said it would bar state and local governments from penalizing the objectors by making it clear they have a "right of conscience." The bill was drafted in response to a recent California mandate that requires all insurance in the state to cover elective abortions.
"I think we can all agree that in this country, no one should be forced to perform an abortion," House Speaker Paul Ryan, a Wisconsin Republican, said in support of the bill.
House Democrats said the bill was "unnecessary" and "destructive." Some said it will allow employers to impose their anti-abortion views on employees. Rep. Jim McGovern, D-Mass., said the bill would allow medical professionals to withhold information if they feel it would lead to an abortion.
"Congress needs to stop interfering in women's health decisions once and for all," Colorado Democrat Diana DeGette said in opposition to the bill.
Currently, healthcare providers can file a complaint with the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services if they feel they have been compelled to perform an abortion. The new bill will allow individuals to file civil lawsuits without going through the department first.