Legislation / Court Cases

Right of Conscience: State / City Actions

 2006

Pro-Life Nurse's Refusal to Do Abortions Leads to Chicago Hospital Policy Protecting Conscience Rights. She challenged the hospital's policy of having its staff participate in abortions; this opened the eyes of her co-workers, who never knew they had a choice not to participate. The ordeal points to the reasons behind a Congressional provision that is currently tied up in courts. At the age of 48, Mary Bauer decided to change careers. She obtained a nursing degree and went to work at a Chicago, IL hospital in its labor and delivery unit. On her first day of work, Bauer arrived excited and looking forward to her new job. However, after an initial orientation, hospital staff said her first assignment would be assisting in the abortion of a 22 week-old unborn child with Down syndrome. In an interview Bauer described her ordeal. "I just told them, ‘I can’t take that patient. I’m very pro-life. I cannot participate in any way, shape or form. I just can’t do it, so I need an alternate assignment," Bauer said. Fearful that she would lose her position, Bauer investigated Illinois law and discovered two statues protecting health-care workers who object to participating in medical procedures on moral grounds. She told her co-workers at the hospital they had the legal right to refuse to assist in abortions. They said, ‘We’ve never had a choice. We always thought this was part of our job and we had to do it.' The hospital adopted an official policy that protected staff from dismissal if they refused to participate in procedures on moral grounds. The unborn child with Down Syndrome eventually died through abortion, however, despite Mary Bauer’s efforts on the baby’s behalf.  [20Dec06, LifeNews.com, Chicago, IL]      

 

 

 

2005 

Illinois Pharmacies at Risk of Closure 

On 22 September 2005, Illinois 7th Circuit Court Judge Belz refused a request by Americans United for Life (AUL) for a temporary restraining order against the enforcement of a rule by Illinois Governor Blagojevich that requires pharmacies to dispense drugs such as the morning-after pill "without delay."

Americans United for Life represents the owners of 5 Illinois pharmacies who would lose their license to operate if the coercion rule is enforced against them.

The suit alleges that the Governor's emergency rule violates the Illinois Health Care Right of Conscience Act because it requires pharmacy owners to dispense such drugs even if doing so violates their moral or religious beliefs. 

The judge disagreed that the rule presented a clear and present risk to the plaintiffs who could lose their businesses if the rule was enforced while the case is heard despite the fact that three pharmacies in Illinois are currently under enforcement action.

Plaintiff Luke Vander Bleek said, "I am very concerned to know that I may be forced to lay off all my employees and stop serving our 14,000 rural Illinois customers on the Governor's whim.  I just don't understand how the state can close private businesses just because they don't want to dispense one drug the Governor has singled out."

Edward R. Martin, Jr., the plaintiffs' attorney and Director of the Center for the Rights of Conscience at Americans United for Life said, "These plaintiffs are only asking that the government respect their right to run their businesses as they see fit.  Without a restraining order, these businesses are at risk of being shuttered at any point the state decides.  This isn't the America I know…This rule requires pharmacy owners to dispense a drug that the owners don't want to carry.  The state should respect the individual's right to run their business, and live their lives, according to their conscience."

The plaintiffs in the case are Luke Vander Bleek, owner of two pharmacies in Whiteside County, Tom O'Shea, owner of two pharmacies in Dekalb County, and Glen Kosirog, owner of one pharmacy in Cook County.

[complaint can be found at http://www. aul.org/ilroc/complaint-2005.9.14.pdf; Americans United for Life (AUL) Press Release, 22Sept05]

 

 

 

2004

WI GOV VETOES HEALTH CARE CONSCIENCE BILL Current law allows health care providers to refuse to perform sterilizations and abortions. The bill Gov. Doyle vetoed would have added procedures involving human embryos and fetal tissue or organs. The bill also would have allowed medical workers to refuse to honor a patient's request to a doctor to abide by a living will. The legislation [AB 67] would have prevented employers from firing or discriminating against employees who wanted to opt out of participating in such life-taking activities. Doyle said Planned Parenthood of WI and WI NARAL "have also worked to educate the public about the bill's effects on patients' rights and the medical code of ethics." But, others said Doyle "has decided that appeasing Planned Parenthood, the state's largest abortion provider, trumps all other considerations…What the governor and Planned Parenthood don't seem to understand is that the vast majority of Wisconsinites believe it is wrong to fire a member of the medical profession or slap them with a lawsuit because they don't want to be forced to participa

te in the deliberate destruction of human life." Planned Parenthood and others in the pro-abortion movement have sought court action in several states to force facilities to perform abortions against their will.
[www.wisgov.state.wi.us/docs/042104_Veto_AB67.pdf; http://www.wisinfo.com/postcrescent/news/archive/local_15794716.shtml; LifeNews.com 21Apr04]

 

 

 

MISSISSIPPI. On the state level, a Mississippi bill became law in July that admirers and critics consider the nation's most sweeping "conscience clause." It allows all types of health care workers and facilities to refuse performing virtually any service to which they object on moral or religious grounds.

 

Gov Barbour was presented the “2004 Legislative Session of the Year” award by Americans United For Life (AUL) because MS has become one of the safest states to be an unborn child in America today (photo link). “Americans United for Life is pleased to honor Governor Haley Barbour for his leadership in protecting women, their unborn children, and the sanctity of human life.  

Mississippi’s tremendously successful legislative session demonstrates the many opportunities that states have to protect the sanctity of human life through common-sense legislation,” said Peter Samuelson, President of AUL. An unprecedented 6 pro-life bills were signed into law this year. Together, these bills laid the groundwork in Mississippi for a pro-life climate that is truly respectful of every unborn life.

“We are pleased that Governor Barbour is not only making great strides protecting Mississippi’s unborn, but he is standing strong by leading the national Republican platform on this issue,” said Terri Herring of Pro-Life Mississippi.

Senate Bill 2619 – the Mississippi Health Care Rights of Conscience Act – gives health care payers, providers and institutions a right not to participate in procedures that violate their conscience. This is the single most expansive conscience exception law in the nation.

Mississippi was only one of four states not to provide any protection for the rights of conscience of health care providers. Governor Barbour made a commitment to getting this legislation passed in his ‘State of the State’ address and made good on that promise.

Senate Bill 2869 makes killing a fetus at any stage of development homicide; House Bill 352 makes killing a quick but unborn child a cause for a wrongful death lawsuit – together, Senate Bill 2869 and House Bill 352 help establish the legal framework than an unborn child is a living being entitled to all the rights and legal protections of a human.

House Bill 1525 requires doctors to file a full report for all injury or death that is a result of having an abortion. House Bill 1612 requires that if a child is born as a result of a failed abortion, it must be given medical attention to keep it alive.

House Bill 1038 requires that abortions be performed in a fully equipped ambulatory surgery center after the first trimester.

“We who are pro-life have an obligation to promote other choices, like adoption,” said Governor Barbour. “It is a shame that there are double the number of abortions in Mississippi each year than there are adoptions – and I intend to push for reviving the adoption tax credit next year.” [Americans United for Life, 11Oct04 Press Release]  

And in states across the country, pro-life organizations and a group called Pharmacists for Life are encouraging pharmacists to refuse to distribute emergency contraceptives, which they consider a potential form of abortion. Texas pharmacist Gene Herr was fired this year by the Eckerd drugstore chain after refusing to fill an emergency contraception prescription for a rape victim. "They were forcing me to do something that I see is wrong," Herr said.

The American Medical Association and American Pharmacists Association support their members' right to conscientious refusal.

Karen Brauer, president of Pharmacists for Life, was fired by Kmart in 1996 for refusing to dispense a birth control drug. She believes momentum now favors her movement. "More people, including pharmacists, are becoming informed how certain drugs operate — and those who want to avoid ending the life of a human being would avoid those drugs," she said. Miss Brauer hopes more states will emulate Mississippi, South Dakota and Arkansas by specifying that pharmacists, as well as doctors, have the right to withhold services on moral grounds.
 [AP;
http://www.washtimes.com/national/20040916-115426-8787r.htm, N Valko, 17Sept04; CNN 16Sept04; AP; 20 Sep 2004 Pro-Life E-News
http://edition.cnn.com/2004/HEALTH/09/15/abortion.refusals.ap/index.html]