Louisiana Abortion-Conscience Bill Strengthened, Senate OKs Pro-Life Measure
by Steven Ertelt
June 23, 2009
Baton Rouge, LA (LifeNews.com) — The Louisiana state Senate gave pro-life doctors and other medical professionals a big victory on Monday when it approved a conscience bill on abortion. The legislature also strengthened the bill to cover both public and private medical professions, which had been weakened earlier in the process.
The bill will now allow all health care professionals to opt out of involvement in abortions or practices like human cloning, euthanasia or embryonic stem cell research.
House Bill 517, sponsored by pro-life Rep. Bernard Lebas, had already been approved by the state House, but that chamber weakened the bill.
Amendments sponsored by Rep. John Bel Edwards provided that only healthcare providers in the public sector are entitled to conscience protection for a limited amount of procedures.
However, thanks to the calls, emails and public lobbying from pro-life advocates, the state Senate approved HB 517 and added an amendment making sure all health care professionals receive the benefit of the legislation.
Benjamin Clapper, the head of the Louisiana Right to Life Federation, said the Senate passed the amended bill on a bipartisan 31-2 vote.
"While Louisiana Right to Life was relentlessly working over the past week to earn our Senators’ support of HB 517, it was not till around 40 pro-lifers descended on the Senate yesterday morning that the victory was in hand," Clapper told LifeNews.com on Tuesday.
"Also, many thanks to Senator Amedee who amended the bill to protect both the consciences of public and private health care professionals," he added.
Clapper says the bill faces one more small hurdle before heading to the governor.
"HB 517 now heads to the House for concurrence and possibly conference," he explained. If the state House sides with the Senate amendment, the bill will go to pro-life Gov. Bibby Jindal, who would likely sign it. Otherwise, a conference of a handful of members of both legislative chambers will have to resolve the differences in the legislation.
Ultimately, Clapper told LifeNews.com he is confident the measure will get to Jindal in the complete form that protects all medical professionals.
"By later this week, we look forward to having a solid pro-life bill on Governor Jindal’s desk for his signature," he said.
During the Senate Health and Welfare Committee consideration of the measure, 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.
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