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The Federal Refusal Clause: Endangering Women’s Health


The Federal Refusal Clause, also known as the Weldon amendment, is a wide-sweeping and controversial federal law that threatens women’s access to reproductive-health care by blocking federal, state, and local governments from enforcing their own pro-choice laws and contracts. First enacted as part of the FY’05 Omnibus Appropriations bill—even though the Senate Appropriations Committee did not include it in its bill and the Senate never voted on the language—the Federal Refusal Clause prohibits federal, state, and local governments from “discriminating” against a health-care entity that “does not provide, pay for, provide coverage of, or refer for abortions.” In other words, it explicitly grants a broad variety of health-care organizations—such as hospitals and insurance companies—the right to refuse to provide, refer for, or pay for abortion services. This provision has been included in each appropriations bill since 2005.

Everyone should be able to decide if, when, how, and with whom they start or grow a family.

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