U.S. House votes to prohibit discrimination against pro-life doctors in new medical education program, 234-182

WASHINGTON — In a significant pro-life victory, the U.S. House of Representatives yesterday adopted an NRLC-backed amendment to prohibit discrimination against pro-life health care providers by “teaching health centers” that receive certain federal funds for graduate medical education.

The amendment, offered by pro-life Rep. Virginia Foxx (R-NC), was adopted on a vote of 234-182, over the strong objections of the Planned Parenthood Federation of America (PPFA).

Pro-life Rep. Virginia Foxx

The amendment pertains to one of the many new programs created by the sweeping health care restructuring law enacted in 2010 — the “Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act” (PPACA), often referred to as “ObamaCare.”  The program provided guaranteed funding — $230 million over the first five years — for grants to “teaching health centers” (THCs) for graduate-level training in certain “primary care” fields of medicine, including obstetrics and gynecology.  The new program was targeted to “community-based” health centers, including federally funded community health centers and family planning clinics.

The bill brought to the House floor by the House Republican leadership, H.R. 1216, would not abolish the new medical education program, but it would remove it from the realm of “mandatory” funding, meaning that funding level would be set during the regular annual appropriations process.  To this bill, Rep. Foxx offered an amendment to prohibit any medical center that receives funds from the program from discriminating against any doctor, nurse, or other health care provider — for example, a medical resident — on grounds that the provider refused to “provide, pay for, provide coverage of, or refer for abortions.”

In addition, the Foxx Amendment prohibited the use of any federal funds in the program to provide abortions or training in abortion, with narrow exceptions.

NRLC took no position on the THC funding program itself or on the bill, but strongly endorsed the Foxx Amendment. 

In advance of the House vote, PPFA strongly denounced the Foxx Amendment.  In a memo circulated to House offices on May 24, PPFA Legislative Director Oliver Kim called the amendment “a clear attempt to undermine women’s ability to be served by physicians who are adequately trained to provide the full range of reproductive health services they may need,” and said that PPFA would include the House roll call in its congressional scorecard.

Following the vote, Nancy Keenan, president of NARAL Pro-Choice America, said that the Foxx Amendment “would bar qualified teaching health centers from using federal funds for comprehensive medical training that includes instruction in the provision of abortion services,” which she characterized as “an unprecedented restriction on medical training” that “would limit drastically doctors’ ability to receive comprehensive and necessary instruction in reproductive-health care . . .”

“The reaction of Planned Parenthood and NARAL to the Foxx Amendment makes it crystal clear that they want the federal taxpayer to fund training of the next generation of abortionists,” said NRLC Legislative Director Douglas Johnson.  “In fact, pro-abortion activists are also trying to make it impossible to become certified in and to practice in some medical fields without participating in providing abortions.  Stronger federal anti-discrimination laws are needed to counter these efforts, especially since the Obama Administration has severely weakened enforcement of the existing protective laws.”

The Foxx Amendment, in winning adoption 234-182, was supported by 221 Republicans and 13 Democrats.  It was opposed by 10 Republicans and 172 Democrats.

To view the official roll call vote, click here.

H.R. 1216, as amended, passed the House 234-185.  The bill faces tough odds in the  Democrat-controlled U.S. Senate.

In January, the Department of Health and Human Services announced its first 11 grants under the new THC program.  One of the recipients, the Institute for Family Health, operates a variety of health centers and programs in New York, some of which have been identified as performing abortions, including the Beth Israel Residency in Urban Family Practice in New York City, which trains residents to perform chemically induced abortions.  A faculty member with the Beth Israel program, Dr. Linda Prine, is also on the staff of the Reproductive Health Access Project, an organization that is engaged in a national campaign to persuade federally funded community health centers to become abortion providers.

In a February press release, the Institute said that the new federal grant would be used by the Mid-Hudson Family Medicine Residency Program, which is based in Kingston, New York.  The Institute did not mention whether the Mid-Hudson program includes abortion.

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