Louisiana Senate Cmte OKs Abortion-Bioethics Conscience Bill, Problems Remain
by Steven Ertelt
June 11, 2009
Baton Rouge, LA (LifeNews.com) — A Louisiana state Senate committee passed a bill to allow a conscience clause for medical professionals related to abortion and problematic bioethics practices. However, a leading pro-life group says problems remain in the legislation that must be fixed in the full state Senate.
The Senate Health and Welfare Committee approved House Bill 517, sponsored by pro-life Rep. Bernard Lebas, on a 3-2 vote Wednesday.
However, amendments sponsored by Rep. John Bel Edwards have severely damaged the bill, providing that only healthcare providers in the public sector are entitled to conscience protection for a limited amount of procedures.
Benjamin Clapper, the head of the Louisiana Right to Life Federation, said the legislation the Senate panel approved was in worse shape compared with the damaged bill it received from the state House.
"The Healthcare Rights of Conscience legislation came out of committee yesterday, but it an even more unfriendly posture," he told LifeNews.com.
"As it is now amended, the bill is unacceptable since it only applies to employees in a public arena, thus leaving out those in private and faith-based institutions," he explained. "We are heading to the Senate floor hoping to fix the bad amendments and send it to Governor [Bobby] Jindal with the bills original intent: protect the conscience rights of all our health care professionals."
The bill would allow all health care professionals, if amended, to opt out of involvement in abortions or practices like human cloning, euthanasia or embryonic stem cell research.
In the committee, Senator Cheryl Gray Evans sided with Planned Parenthood and company by stripping the pro-life amendments that would have restored H.B. 517 to a pro-life position.
"Confusion reigned in the two hour committee hearing with Planned Parenthood representatives making outrageous allegations that the bill allows ‘racist medicine’," Clapper told LifeNews.com previously, "and the ACLU alleging that conscience protections could lead to a situation where Muslims would try to impose Sharia law."
The bill comes on the heels of the Louisiana Supreme Court declining to hear an appeal in a medical conscience case.
A Louisiana nurse won her battle at the state Supreme Court when it refused to hear a hospital’s appeal of a lower court decision siding with her. The nurse, Toni Lemly, sued St. Tammany Parish Hospital in 2005 after it refused to grant a reasonable accommodation for her religious beliefs.
Lemly informed hospital staff that she objected to administering the morning after pill because of her religious beliefs.
In response, St. Tammany Parish Hospital fired Lemly from her full-time position and reduced her to part-time status, working only three days a week. Her demotion resulted in a significant reduction in pay and the loss of employee benefits.
ACTION: Go to https://senate.legis.state.la.us/Senators and ask your senators ot suport the conscience rights of all medical professionals.
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