Michigan Conscience Clause Bills Would Protect Pro-Life Medical Workers
by Paul Nowak
LifeNews.com Staff Writer
March 31, 2004
Lansing, MI (LifeNews.com) — A package of bills in the Michigan Legislature would guarantee that medical personnel and institutions would not be penalized for objecting to acts that they object to for moral reasons, such as abortion, euthanasia, and embryonic stem cell research.
There are a total of four bills in the "Conscience Clause” package.
HB 5006 protects any individual health care provider, such as a pharmacist, nurse, or doctor, from losing their jobs over refusal to perform acts, such as participating in an abortion or filling a prescription for an abortion drug. A medical facility could object on similar grounds, such as private hospitals, under HB 5276. The last two bills, HB 5277 and HB 5278, would allow insurance companies to likewise exempt themselves from medical practices they find morally objectionable. The bills could come to a committee vote as early as this week.
"Ultimately, what we’re talking about, in my mind, is religious and moral freedom of people trying to do a job,” said Rep. Randy Richardville (R-Monroe), who sponsored one of the bills.
Kristen Hemker, an associate for public policy at the Michigan Catholic Conference agrees that the issue is religious freedom.
"There is no other industry where a professional is required to go against their conscience to keep their job,” Hemker told LifeNews.com.
Hemker pointed out that the state has 26 Catholic hospitals that serve millions of Michiganders.
"We’ve been here since the state’s founding,” explained Hemker, who added that other non-Catholic entities, such as Lutheran nursing homes and individual practitioners need protection.
Earlier this month the California Supreme Court ruled that Catholic Charities must provide coverage for birth control in its health insurance plan, regardless of the fact that contraception is contrary to teachings of the Catholic Church. The decision sets the stage for possibly forcing Catholic and other Christian groups to pay for other immoral activities such as abortion or assisted suicides, if legalized.
In February, three Texas pharmacists were fired by Eckerd Corporation for refusing to fill prescriptions for the so-called morning after pill, which pharmacist Gene Herr and two co-workers believe kills the unborn child shortly after conception. Earlier this month, a Wisconsin pharmacist came under fire for refusing to fill a prescription for birth control.
It is because of situations like these that pro-life organizations are calling for protection for health care professionals to exercise religious freedom and their own freedom of choice.
"There’s a serious need to protect the right of conscience," said Richard Meyers, a professor at the Ave Maria School of Law, a Catholic institution. "There’s a comprehensive assault on conscientious decisions in health care."