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TREASURY AND GENERAL GOVERNMENT APPROPRIATIONS ACT, 2000 -- (House of Representatives - July 15, 1999)

   Mr. ADERHOLT. Mr. Chairman, I rise to strongly support the SMITH amendment. I cannot imagine the Congress of the United States not allowing health plans in this Nation, the United States of America, to include such exceptions.

   All this amendment does, and it has been said here today already but let me reiterate two simple things to the current conscience clause in the contraceptive mandate. Number one, it expands conscience protections to plans which object on moral, not just religious grounds. Religion is not only the reason one would object to abortion. This should be accounted for.

   And number two, expands conscience protection to not only those who prescribe medication, as is the current law, but also to those who provide for the abortifacient drug. All this means is that a nurse who does not prescribe but might be asked to administer an abortifacient drug has a right to refuse it.

   I would simply ask my colleagues, Democrats and Republicans alike, to vote to protect the conscience of all women.

   Mrs. LOWEY. Mr. Chairman, I am pleased to yield 3 minutes to the gentlewoman from Connecticut.

   Mrs. JOHNSON of Connecticut. Mr. Chairman, I rise in strong support of the amendment to the amendment. The example that my colleague just gave about a nurse having the right not to administer a contraceptive that they believed was abortifacient because they believed it was an abortion is a right that is protected under the underlying bill. The nurse, as a provider, has a right not to provide services to which she morally objects. Any provider and any entity has that right under this bill. No hospital has to provide abortions if they do not want to. No physician has to. That is a very important right that is protected in the law.

   It is also true that if an insurance company offers contraceptive coverage, every woman covered by that insurance policy has a right to use it or not. If they have moral objections to contraceptives, they do not have to use contraceptives. There is nothing in the insurance policy that mandates that they use any of the health care services that the health care plan provides. It is a menu of services that they have the option of choosing, depending on their personal conviction, their religious convictions, and their moral convictions.

   But to give to a plan the power to deny because the plan, which is a piece of paper, it is not a person, but because the plan decides that I, as a woman, do not have the right to take the common contraceptives that 90 percent of American women depend on so that they can have a healthy marriage and be a good mother, that is what family planning does. It spaces our children and limits the number so parents can support them and send them to college, so women can be a loving wife in a happy partnership. That is what family planning is about.

   It is about good healthy married sex. And I am proud to say that. And I think every woman in America has a right not only to limit the number of children, but to enjoy a healthy relationship with her husband.

   Mr. Chairman, one thing I wanted to add, the gentleman from Illinois (Mr. HYDE), my dear friend said that we do not suffer from too much morality. That is true. But there is no question that in America we suffer from too much government regulation. And the idea that government is going to regulate, give to a plan on a piece of paper the moral authority to dictate to me, a woman of religious integrity, whether or not I can choose to use a contraceptive is a level, frankly, of intrusiveness into personal freedom that I as a Republican object to and reject.

   I find it very hard to believe that Republicans who believe in less government and more freedom could endow a plan with the moral authority to limit my right not only to manage when I have children in accord with my good health and my family's ability to support them, but also regulate my right to have confidence, the confidence that frankly healthy sexual relationships among married couples demands, and that is just true.

   Mr. SMITH of New Jersey. Mr. Chairman, I yield myself such time as I may consume.

   Mr. Chairman, first of all the gentlewoman from Connecticut, my good friend, is factually incorrect when she suggests that the underlying legislation which repeats language that has been in existence for a year, protects health care workers' right to conscience. Nothing could be further from the truth. The plan language that is in the bill, the plan language that has been on the books, for the last year, only says that the prescriber, the person that ``prescribes'' the contraceptives, or abortion chemicals--those drugs or devices that have the capacity to prevent implantation for example, have ``conscience'' protection. Every other health care worker--nurses, nurse practitioners and others--have absolutely no ``conscience'' protection whatsoever.

   Mr. Chairman, my amendment, which the gentlewoman from New York (Mrs. LOWEY) has said she supports, expands conscience protection to all health care workers. There has been a serious omission in the current law and the proposal that is before the House tonight that is remedied by my amendment.

   Now, when we talk about a plan, a plan and a provider of a plan, the carrier is a collection of people. These plans--BlueCross or BlueShield for example--have a board of directors, a chain of command. They are made up of people. People who have religious beliefs are protected. But there are also some and maybe many who do not have religious beliefs. They may be agnostics or atheists or people for whom religion carries little weight, but have a moral conviction, individually or collectively, who object on moral grounds to the provision of contraceptives. They may feel, as a matter of moral conviction, that abortion chemicals have no place in their provision of health care.

    Ironically, there is no right to choose here contemplated by the gentlelady from New York. It would be wrong to force them to say they have got to provide it. That is using the coercive power of the Federal Government to make them do something that is against their ``moral conviction.'' This is about moral conviction. I am amazed and really shocked and disappointed that the gentlewoman from New York has offered this amendment to strike the words ``moral conviction''. It trivializes people who oppose certain practices on a basis other than their religious belief.

   As the gentleman from Illinois (Mr. HYDE) pointed out so well, corporations do have consciences. There are mutual funds that are ``green,'' in other words, pro-environment. They only invest in that which is environmentally protective. There are mutual funds that do not invest in corporations dealing with the weapons industry because they feel that is wrong. That is their choice. They can do it. And I respect it. Disinvestment from corporations doing business in South Africa in the 80's sharpened the ``conscience'' of many corporations.

   Carriers, health plans and the like do have a conscience expressed through their board of directors and expressed perhaps through their shareholders. Any attempt to stifle moral conviction

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or repress it is absolutely wrong. And, again, I am really disappointed that some would force their moral convictions on those who want to say they have a moral objection to this.

   In terms of individual men and women who want to get abortion chemicals, there are a myriad of programs that provide that. Sadly. But it is not like there is a lack of provision of that kind of service. But do not tell everybody that they have to get in lockstep and provide this.

   Mrs. LOWEY. Mr. Chairman, I yield 2 1/2 minutes to the gentlewoman from Maryland (Mrs. MORELLA).

   Mrs. MORELLA. Mr. Chairman, I thank the gentlewoman from New York (Mrs. LOWEY) for yielding me this time. She is my stalwart friend who introduced this legislation last year that passed that we spoke about earlier today. I also thank her for the work that she has done to make sure that Federal employees have an opportunity for coverage for contraception within the Federal Employee Health Benefit Plan. I consider it an equity provision containing the religious exemption that specifically exempts the five religious-based plans within the Federal Employee Health Benefit Plan.


[Time: 20:15]

   I have talked to the Office of Personnel and Management, and they report that no other FEHB plan has requested any kind of an exemption, nor have they complained that the conscience language that is currently there is inadequate.

   So I do not know. We talk about a plan based on moral convictions. The Office of Personnel Management is the one that negotiates with the proposed planners for any kind of a plan that they would offer. None of them have asked for a plan based on moral convictions, that they want to be exempted. There are the five. They are specifically mentioned.

   Implementation of the policy has gone very well. No insurer, provider, or beneficiary has complained to the Office of Personnel Management about that provision. Additionally, the Congressional Budget Office has estimated that the cost of delivering contraceptive coverage is so minimal that the provision has no negligible budgetary effect.

   I think this coverage is necessary for families where contraception decisions are most often made. Women spend 80 percent of their productive years, or reproductive years, I should say, trying not to get pregnant.

   Actually, currently, women pay 68 percent more for out-of-pocket health care costs. The majority of these costs come from contraception. Providing prescription contraceptive coverage is important for our Federal employees. It is essential to setting a model for private insurance plans.

   Actually, this issue comes up because of abortion. The way to prevent abortion is to offer the opportunity for appropriate contraception. That is what we are now doing for Federal employees. Let us not change it on the basis of a plan based on moral convictions. We have a plan that does work.

   Mrs. LOWEY. Mr. Chairman, I am pleased to yield 2 minutes to the gentlewoman from California (Ms. WOOLSEY).

   (Ms. WOOLSEY asked and was given permission to revise and extend her remarks.)

   Ms. WOOLSEY. Mr. Chairman, I rise in strong support of the contraceptive coverage provisions in this bill.

   Last year, Congress got smart and voted to give women who work for the Federal Government access to contraceptives. But now it seems like the appropriations process is signalling the beginning of another hunting season on a woman's reproductive rights, particularly if that woman works for the Federal Government.

   Go figure it out. Unwanted pregnancy and abortion rates drop when women have access to preventive productive health care.

   I ask Members to look at their female employees. Look at the staff who work so hard for them to serve their district. Look at those women and tell them that we do not care about their reproductive health. Then look at the millions of Federal workers that work for the Federal Government, who work day in and day out to serve the people of this country. Go ahead. Tell them that we do want to deny them the rights that are made accessible to other women but not to them.

   Contraceptives give women and their families new choices and new hope. They increase child survival. They increase safe motherhood. Prohibiting Federal workers from using their health care coverage for prescription contraceptive coverage as they see fit discriminates against women just because they work for the Federal Government. This is a total disgrace.

   Mr. Chairman, I urge my colleagues to support contraceptive coverage for our Federal employees.

   The CHAIRMAN. The Chair advises all Members that the gentlewoman from New York (Mrs. LOWEY) has 2 1/2 minutes remaining and the right to close. The gentleman from New Jersey (Mr. SMITH) has 6 minutes remaining.

   Mrs. LOWEY. Mr. Chairman, I am delighted to yield 2 minutes to the gentlewoman from Texas (Ms. JACKSON-LEE).

   (Ms. JACKSON-LEE of Texas asked and was given permission to revise and extend her remarks.)

   Ms. JACKSON-LEE of Texas. Mr. Chairman, I thank the gentlewoman from New York (Mrs. LOWEY) for her leadership.

   Late into the night, let me simply say it is a crying shame. It is a crying shame that, in 1999, we would not address this question of dealing with the rights of women in the Federal employment in the way that it should be, giving them real reproductive rights.

   I respect the disagreement that the gentleman from New Jersey (Mr. SMITH) has, and he has been strong on his disagreement. But we already have a religious exemption. We already allow for plans who, because of religious beliefs, do not want to engage in contraceptive education or prescription to opt out. We allow for those who are medical professionals and particular physicians to opt out.

   But now what we are being asked to do is to simply gut the right of women in the Federal employment to have the right for reproductive rights, to be protected, to be safe, to be secure. What we are suggesting now is a return to the coat hanger for those who work in the Federal employ.

   Our medical plans are a nonperson. They do not exist as a person. To give them a moral exemption does not seem to be realistic. This is a question of choice. It is a question of privacy. It is a question of their very personal decision.

   While we can respect the religious differences of those who wish to conspicuously opt out, whether it is a Catholic or a Baptist plan, how can we attribute to any plan the ability to rise up and say, ``I have a moral reason. Oh, it is not religion, but it just happens to be in the back of my mind. I do not want to do it.'' Therefore, we endanger the lives of women who are serving this country as Federal civil servants.

   Mr. Chairman, I would simply ask my colleagues, can we make our Federal employees second-class citizens? Are women now to go to the back of the bus and be able to suffer under this unequal plan?

   I ask support for the Lowey amendment.

   Mrs. LOWEY. Mr. Chairman, I yield myself such time as I may consume.

   Mr. Chairman, I urge my colleagues to vote for this language. The contraceptive provision in this bill that has been very successfully implemented for the past year has not received any, any, any challenges from one plan. I believe the gentleman from New Jersey (Mr. SMITH) agreed with that.

   We have given the individual the right to opt out before of a moral conscience. But, Mr. Chairman, a plan in my judgment does not have a moral conscience, and we do not want to give these plans the right to opt out from writing a check to cover basic health care for women.

   Mr. SMITH of New Jersey. Mr. Chairman, I yield myself such time as I may consume.

   Mr. Chairman, just let me make a couple of points.

   I respect the gentlewoman from Texas (Ms. JACKSON-LEE). We recently traveled to Macedonia and Albania, we talked going and coming, and I think we struck up a very good friendship during the course of that trip. Regrettably, I believe the gentlewoman engaged in some very real hyperbole on the floor tonight.

   First, the mandate that is in this bill, that is in existing law, remains the same.

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   What I am offering is a conscience clause, a real, honest-to-goodness conscience clause. Frankly, I am amazed. I said it earlier. I am very, very disappointed that those who take the view that abortions are okay, but for purposes of this language we are talking about chemicals that induce an early abortion, they want carriers to jettison their conscience. A carrier, obviously, is a group of people who form a corporation. Say it is Blue Cross/Blue Shield, Kaiser Permanente, NYL Care. Name the carrier, and say it does not have people behind it, it does not have a board of directors, it does not have people who might have a very strong sense of conscience regarding these things that is not related to their religious beliefs.

   Moral convictions and religious beliefs, as I pointed out earlier in the U.S. Code, usually go hand in hand. Why the exception when it comes to abortion chemicals?

   I am truly dismayed by this, that the conscience of those people who have a moral objection that is not rooted in religious beliefs, they may not have any, religious faith, there are a lot of agnostics out there, and some atheists out there who might have strong beliefs based on moral conviction why they do not want to proceed with this. If they collectively say, through a vote of board of directors, that they do not want to have abortion chemicals being provided, they should be able to object as a matter of moral conviction.

   The amendment of the gentlewoman from New York (Mrs. LOWEY), an imperfecting amendment, to use what the gentleman from Maryland (Mr. HOYER) said earlier, undermined that and suggests that moral convictions don't count. I would respectfully submit to all of my colleagues that moral convictions should count, and they should count equally with religious beliefs. Equally.

   Again, I think it trivializes those people who do not have religious beliefs to say their moral convictions should be thrown over the side simply because we do not happen to agree with them.

   Let me just also say once again, that my language comports with several existing statutes. It is very important. I will put all of them that I have compiled so far into the RECORD and ask my colleagues to take a look at it.

   Let me just read the language of my amendment just so everyone is very clear. It talks about a conscience clause for any existing or future plan if the carrier for the plan objects to such coverage on the basis of religious beliefs or moral convictions.

   Very simple and straightforward. The Lowey amendment strikes moral convictions. Again, I think that is a very, very serious imposition on those who have moral convictions that are not based on religious beliefs.

   Again, we are not talking here about what our conscience would suggest in this. We are providing a framework for other people to exercise their consciences.

   Why this idea of forcing people to all march down the same road if they have a moral conviction and sense they should go in the other direction? Again, that is why I urge a ``no'' vote on the Lowey amendment.

   It is antithetical to the purported belief on choice on the other side. A man and woman, collectively as a plan, a carrier, does not have a choice anymore. Big brother in Washington is going to tell them they have to do this under pain of not being within the Federal Employees Health Benefits Program.

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