The CNN article was accurate. Maya gives us the correct information [and, in the process, causes my synapses to malfunction]. The Bill in question is HR 3664.
First, the context, kindly provided [I almost wrote "translated"] to us by Maya:
Current law says that physicians (and only physicians) can refuse to participate in training or licensing for abortion procedures if they are morally opposed to the abortion. The law would change it so that "other health care providers" (e.g., nurses, pharmacists, etc.) and "a hospital, a provider sponsored organization, a health maintenance organization, a health insurance plan, or any other kind of health care facility, organization or plan" can also refuse to do things based on moral objection. Additionally, the things that doctors or other entities can refuse to do is expanded from just training and licensing to include "perform, provide coverage of, or pay for induced abortions".
So this means that insurance companies can refuse to pay for abortions, companies can choose health insurance that won't cover abortions, hospitals can refuse to provide facilities for abortions, etc., etc., etc...
Second, the Bill's text:
To prohibit certain abortion-related discrimination in governmental activities.
Be it enacted by the Senate and House of Representatives of the United States of America in Congress assembled,
SECTION 1. SHORT TITLE.
This Act may be cited as the `Abortion Non-Discrimination Act of 2003'.
SEC. 2. ABORTION NON-DISCRIMINATION.
Section 245 of the Public Health Service Act (42 U.S.C. 238n) is amended--
(1) in the section heading, by striking `REGARDING TRAINING AND LICENSING OF PHYSICIANS' and inserting `REGARDING TRAINING, LICENSING, AND PRACTICE OF PHYSICIANS AND OTHER HEALTH CARE ENTITIES';
(2) in subsection (a)(1), by striking `to perform such abortions' and inserting `to perform, provide coverage of, or pay for induced abortions'; and
(3) in subsection (c)(2)--
(A) by inserting `or other health professional,' after `an individual physician';
(B) by striking `and a participant' and inserting `a participant'; and
(C) by inserting before the period the following: `, a hospital, a provider sponsored organization, a health maintenance organization, a health insurance plan, or any other kind of health care facility, organization or plan'.
Even in my current state of almost complete stunnedness I can't help but notice the Bill's title: "Abortion Non-Discrimination". Say this aloud as you read it: ABORTION NON-DISCRIMINATION! Apparently the Bill's sponsor, Rep Bilirakis, Michael [FL-9], and it's 15 cosponsors--Rep Bartlett, Roscoe G. [MD-6], Rep Barton, Joe [TX-6], Rep Burr, Richard [NC-5], Rep Davis, Jo Ann [VA-1], Rep Deal, Nathan [GA-10], Rep Ehlers, Vernon J. [MI-3], Rep Hall, Ralph M. [TX-4], Rep Pickering, Charles W. (Chip) [MS-3], Rep Pitts, Joseph R. [PA-16], Rep Smith, Christopher H. [NJ-4], Rep Stearns, Cliff [FL-6], Rep Tauzin, W. J. (Billy) [LA-3], Rep Taylor, Gene [MS-4], Rep Upton, Fred [MI-6], Rep Whitfield, Ed [KY-1]--can't even afford us a modicum of respect by avoiding the use of dubious euphemisms for their Bill. This is a free country. If you are a politician and you wish to legislate denial of medical treatment for female patients just say so. Have the courage of your convictions.
Abortion discrimination means a patient is refused medical treatment (she's refused an abortion). Abortion non-discrimination means a patient isn't discriminated against because proper medical care (an abortion) is provided. Medical treatment is about the patient, and the discrimination can only be effected against said patient [you know, the person in need of medical care]. Patients, by definition, do not render medical care to their health care professionals. Maybe this necessitates further explanation: the woman on the operating table does not perform surgery on her physician; the woman at the drugstore counter does not dispense drugs to the pharmacist. It is impossible for the patient to medically discriminate against her health care professional.
Of course, it's quite possible for the patient to discriminate in other ways. For example, my best friend--a blond, blue-eyed Caucasian--is an ophthalmologist (eye doctor) in Germany. Patients often refuse to have her examine them because she isn't a native German. Other examples are the patients who refuse to see a male, or a female, physician, or patients who refuse care from a resident, etc. Despite all the possible instances of patients discriminating against their health care provider, medical discrimination isn't one of them. Thus [insert whatever medical treatment you wish here] discrimination/non-discrimination can only occur one way: from the health care person to the patient, not the other way around.
Just because a patient needs treatment (or, for that matter, is HIV-positive/a Jehovah's Witness/a prostitute transvestite) doesn't mean that that patient is discriminating against the physician.
You cannot protect the physician from the patient's discrimination, when that "discrimination" is the patient's need for medical treatment. Why? Because in this instance there's no discrimination. A hypothetical religious pharmacist who is fired for refusing to dispense medication to his patient (or who fails to insure a proper referral) isn't dismissed because there was any type of discrimination against his religious beliefs. The pharmacist is fired because he failed to perform his professional duties.
The Bill's title, Abortion Non-Discrimination is disingenuous. This is a Refusal-to-Treat Bill. Incidentally, being a health care professional and refusing to treat your patients (or issue a referral) are incompatible. Up to now I also thought refusal-to-treat was malpractice. Apparently, if the patient is a woman, not so much.
There's more to this story but, unfortunately, I'm too stunned to go on. I'll address the rest in another post.
Note: If the direct link doesn't work for you, try this. Go to
here, click on Bill Summary & Status. On the new page, enter HR 3664 in the Bill, Amendment, or Public Law Number search box, then click Search. This brings you to the Bill's page. Click CRS Summary for the summary.