Missouri Legislature Advances Conscience Rights Bills

State   |   Joe Oertwerth   |   Mar 6, 2012   |   7:45PM   |   Jefferson City, MO

Committees in the Missouri House and Senate have advanced legislation to protect the conscience rights of health care employees in Missouri hospitals and clinics.

The House Health Care Policy Committee has approved legislation sponsored by Representative Tim Jones of Eureka. The Senate Small Business, Insurance, and Industry Committee has endorsed identical legislation sponsored by Senator Scott Rupp of Wentzville.

The bills provide that doctors, nurses, medical students, and other medical professionals cannot be forced to participate in specified medical procedures or research that violate his or her conscience.

Those procedures include abortion, abortion-inducing drugs, contraception, sterilization, and assisted reproduction. Areas of research covered by the bill include human cloning, embryonic stem-cell research, fetal tissue research, and fetal experimentation.

Under the bill, no employee could be subject to employment discrimination for refusing to participate in activity that violates his or her conscience. Discrimination would encompass termination, suspension, demotion, reduction in pay or benefits, loss of staff privileges, or loss of career specialty.

The bill also provides that no health care institution can be required to offer or participate in medical procedures or research that violate its religious, moral, or ethical guidelines.

Missouri currently has a law protecting health care conscience rights as they apply to surgical abortion. However, the current statute exempts employers who can claim that compliance is an undue hardship or that performing abortions is a bona fide occupational qualification. Those were the very two reasons recently cited by a New Jersey hospital which attempted to force nurses to perform abortions over their objections.

The bills filed by Representative Jones and Senator Rupp were developed by the Missouri Family Policy Council in collaboration with the Missouri Catholic Conference.

LifeNews.com Note:  Joe Oertwerth writes for the Missouri Family Policy Council.