Congressman Eliot Engel (D-NY-17) twice offered an amendment to the so called â€œProtect Life Act,â€ (H.R. 358) in an attempt to thwart attacks on womenâ€™s health resulting from the Republican bill.Â Â Rep. Engel is a senior member on the House Energy and Commerceâ€™s Subcommittee on Health.Â (To view the entire debate and vote on the amendment in the Health Subcommittee – http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tF8CpmEP57w)
Rep. Engelâ€™s amendment, defeated Tuesday by the full Energy and Commerce Committee by a vote of 31-19,Â would maintain current laws which protect both doctors who do not practice abortion and those who do.Â The so-called â€œProtect Life Act,â€ does away with basic protections except for those health care providers who oppose abortion.Â The measure would criminalize anyone who would do the procedure or even educate a woman on her choices. Â The House also voted on Friday to pass an amendment to strip funding for Planned Parenthood, a measure Rep. Engel voted against.
â€œIf this irresponsible bill becomes law it would put the lives of women at risk.Â It is ironic that a bill titled â€˜protect lifeâ€™ could result in the inevitable loss of life.Â These bills are the Republican Majorityâ€™s opening salvo in their determined quest to dismantle the existing law protecting a womanâ€™s right to seek medical assistance for her own body.Â Make no mistake, this bill may pass the House and then go nowhere, but this is not going to stop the Republicanâ€™s attempts to pass more extreme legislation to advance their social agenda,â€ said Rep. Engel.
â€œI am sure that there are doctors and nurses who believe that they are morally required to provide a requested abortion to a victim of rape, or in an emergency situation,â€ said Rep. Engel. â€œHowever, the Republican leadership only wants to protect one groupâ€™s conscience, and no others.Â This is wrong and itâ€™s not fair.â€
Unfortunately, pro-choice health providers are not protected by Roe v. Wade, as some claim.Â â€œIf a hospital fires a doctor because he performs abortions elsewhere, thatâ€™s not protected by Roe v. Wade.Â Nor is it protected if a nurse is not given a job because she has provided counseling on abortion.Â There are also cases where a hospital chooses to provide training on safe abortion methods and is denied a grant as a result.Â This bill does not protect these care providers from discrimination for simply following the law.Â I find it to be very disappointing that the Majority refused to protect these doctors and chose instead to advance a political agenda.â€
Rep. Engel added, â€œThis bill is not equal conscience-protection, instead it is a government advancement of a particular viewpointâ€”and we donâ€™t do that in this country.Â This is more of the Republican Right ill-advised plan to refight the culture wars of the past.â€
â€œWe should not protect one groupâ€™s conscience and criminalize anotherâ€™s; it’s not fair and it’s not right.Â We need the two-way protections that exist in current law and my amendment would have provided that.â€
Rep. Engel is a longtime supporter of womenâ€™s reproductive rights and has a 100% voting record from Planned Parenthood, WCLA (Westchester Coalition for Legal Abortion) â€“ Choice MattersÂ and NARAL Pro-Choice America.Â â€œFor a party that rails against government intrusion in peopleâ€™s lives, the Republicans want the federal government involved in one of the most personal decisions made by a woman and her family.Â For me that is the height of hypocrisy,â€ added Rep. Engel.