Idaho Gov Allows Conscience Rights for Pro-Life Medical Staff to Become Law

State   |   Steven Ertelt   |   Mar 30, 2010   |   9:00AM   |   WASHINGTON, DC

Idaho Gov Allows Conscience Rights for Pro-Life Medical Staff to Become Law

by Steven Ertelt Editor
March 30
, 2010

Boise, ID ( — Idaho Governor Butch Otter allowed a bill to become law that will create statutory protections for health care professionals in specific areas of medical practice.

The measure makes it so pro-life health care workers don’t have to fear for their jobs if they decide they don’t want to dispense drugs that could be used to cause abortions or kill patients at the end of their life.

David Ripley of Idaho Choose Life, commented on Otter’s actions in an email to and he was surprised and disappointed by otter not signing the bill outright.

"While that is an admittedly disappointing development, we cannot allow that to take away from the huge pro-Life victory this legislation represents," he said. "Frankly, it is also rather surprising given Otter’s strong constitutional orientation. SB 1353 codifies the very spirit of our 1st Amendment’s promise of religious and moral liberty."

"After some two years’ worth of work, Idaho joins a handful of other states with comprehensive conscience protections for health care professionals. It couldn’t have come at a more opportune moment," Ripley added.

"With the federal government now busily erecting hundreds of new agencies with which to invade our hospitals, clinics and insurance providers’ offices – this new law may well prove vital to protecting the integrity of our vital health care professions. We are confident that it will also help protect the very lives of vulnerable Idahoans," he said.

ICL worked closely with Americans United for Life on the law and AUL attorney Denise Burke talked about its importance.

"Idaho has become the third state to provide comprehensive protection for health care freedom of conscience," she said.

The new law protects any licensed health care professional from being required to participate in “any health care service that violates his or her conscience.”

“Health care service” is specifically defined to include “abortion, dispensation of an abortifacient drug, human embryonic stem cell research, treatment regimens utilizing human embryonic stem cells, human embryo cloning or end of life treatment or care.”

"A health care professional declining to participate in these services may not be discriminated against or held liable for exercising his or her conscience," Burke says.

Louisiana and Mississippi also currently provide comprehensive protection for health care freedom of conscience.

Forty-four other states provide a lesser degree of conscience protection – generally, providing protection to limited categories of providers (e.g. physicians and nurses) and only for limited “services” (typically, abortion).

And Burke said three states – Alabama, New Hampshire, and Vermont – provide no conscience protection for health care providers.

"Freedom of conscience – a right to conscientiously object – must be a comprehensive civil right for any health care provider to decline to participate in any health care procedure or service based on religious, moral, or ethical convictions. All individuals, including health care providers, have a fundamental right to exercise their religious beliefs, personal ethics, and conscience," she said.

House members passed the bill 51-19 on a mostly party line vote with Democratic Rep. Branden Durst of Boise and James Ruchti of Pocatello joining GOP lawmakers.

Only two Republicans voted against the measure (George Eskridge of Sandpoint and Tom Trail of Moscow).

Ripley credited Senators Russ Fulcher, Chuck Winder and Representatives Tom Loertscher and Erik Simpson for pushing the measure.

"We received support and encouragement from many tremendous legislators – who offer Idaho courageous and principled leadership at a difficult time in our nation’s history," he added.

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