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Michigan Senate Passes Bill for Pro-Life Conscience Rights

by Steven Ertelt | Washington, DC | LifeNews.com | 12/6/12 6:59 PM

State

While pro-life conscience rights are under attack from the Obama administration, the Michigan state Senate has approve a bill to respect and protect them. Today the Michigan Senate passed Senate Bill 975, the “Religious Liberty and Conscience Protection Act.”

Michigan Catholic Conference Vice President for Public Policy and Advocacy Tom Hickson provided LifeNews with comments following passage.

“Senate Bill 975 strikes an appropriate balance between ensuring religious liberty rights for health care providers and flexibility for employers to meet their health care needs,” he said. “It is important to note the bill protects constitutional rights for individuals and institutions, but does not limit care for anyone in a medical emergency nor does it allow for discrimination based on an individual’s status. Michigan Catholic Conference is thankful to Senator John Moolenaar (R-Midland) for his efforts to support this bill, and we now encourage the House of Representatives to pass Senate Bill 975.”

The pro-life group agrees that individuals and providers in the health care profession must not be forced to pay for or provide services that violate their religious beliefs.

To that effect, SB 975 protects the religious liberty rights of health care institutions and individuals while at the same time provides flexibility for employers to meet their health care needs.

Hickson said measures introduced in past legislative sessions in Michigan have sought to require providers, payers or facilities to participate in services or procedures that violate their consciences. Those efforts have included, for example, forcing religious employers to include abortion-inducing drugs in their health benefit plans, requiring pharmacists to dispense objectionable prescriptions, and forcing faith based hospitals to dispense medication without consideration of existing policies that uphold the dignity of human life.

Legislation that would have prohibited such discrimination while providing religious liberty protections moved through the Michigan House of Representatives in 2005 with strong bipartisan support, but stalled in a Senate committee. A statewide religious liberty and conscience protection policy, such as Senate Bill 975, would provide religious liberty protections to faith based employers and employees who provide services in the health care field.

“Faith based organizations have an extraordinary track record of providing health care to the most vulnerable populations in the state, yet efforts are underway to strip those institutions of their right to operate in the health care field according to their faith tradition,” said Hickson.

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Senate Bill 975 sets the circumstances by which a religious accommodation would not apply, such as when immediate action is required and no other qualified health providers are available, or if the request for accommodation is made based on a patient’s status, coverage or ability to pay.

Hickson said the legislation would protect a health facility, payer or provider who objected to a health care service as a matter of conscience from civil, criminal and administrative liability or from discrimination. In its entirety, the “Religious Liberty and Conscience Protection Act” allows for individuals, payers and providers in the health care field to operate according to their conscience without fear of government intrusion or discrimination.