Medical professionals and health care institutions would have strengthened conscience protections under legislation approved by the Missouri House of Representatives. The health care conscience rights bill,
sponsored by Majority Leader Tim Jones
of Eureka, gained final passage in the House by a vote of 113-41.
Under the proposal, no doctor, nurse, or other medical professional can be compelled to participate in medical procedures or research that violate his or her religious beliefs. No medical professional could be threatened with adverse employment actions for failing to assist in procedures or research that they find morally
Missouri currently has a conscience rights law, but its provisions were adopted to only apply to surgical abortion. The current law also includes exceptions which have been exploited in other states to attempt to force nurses to participate in abortion procedures against their will.
The new legislation, House Bill 1541, outlines specified medical procedures and research which an employee could choose not to engage in under terms of their medical practice or employment. Those procedures and research include abortion, abortion-inducing drugs, contraception, sterilization, assisted reproduction, human cloning, human embryonic stem-cell research, human somatic
cell nuclear transfer, fetal tissue research, and nontherapeutic fetal experimentation.
The bill prohibits specific discriminatory employment actions against individuals who have exercised their conscience rights. Adverse employment actions which are prohibited include termination, suspension, demotion, reduction of wages and benefits, refusal of staff privileges, refusal of board certification, or loss of career specialty.
The scope of medical professionals covered by the bill's protections is extensive. They include physicians, physician's assistants, nurses, nurses' aides, medical assistants, hospital and clinic employees, counselors, social workers, medical researchers, medical or nursing
school faculty, and students or applicants for training in any program in the health care professions.
Representative Jones' proposal also would ensure that health care institutions cannot be required to provide or perform medical procedures that violate their own religious, moral, or ethical guidelines. No religious hospital or clinic would be civilly or criminally liable so long as they disclosed to patients their institutional right to decline to participate in procedures that violate the tenets of their faith.
Opponents of the legislation claimed that the bill would limit health care access to legally permissible procedures. However, the bill has nothing to do with health insurance or health care coverage. Individuals who seek any of the specified medical procedures will still be able to obtain them. They simply will not be able to coerce a medical professional with religious
objections to be the one to provide them.
The need for the legislation was illustrated by a recent incident at the University of Medicine and Dentistry Hospital in Newark, New Jersey. Nurses in the same-day surgery unit were suddenly told that they would have to start participating in abortion procedures. When they objected based on their personal religious convictions, they were told that their religious views were of no consequence. The hospital
backed down after a lawsuit was filed on the nurses' behalf by the Alliance Defense Fund.
House Bill 1541 now moves to the Senate, where it will face stiffer challenges in a chamber where the filibuster can be employed. The Missouri Hospital Association has indicated that they will be working to kill the bill in the Senate. We encourage you to contact your state senator to urge their support for the conscience rights bill. You can do so by clicking this link:Your State Senator
You can also contact your state representative to express appreciation or disappointment in their vote on the health care conscience bill. You can do so by using this link:Your State Representative
Here is how members of the Missouri House voted on this issue:
Representatives voting for House Committee Substitute for House Bill 1541:
Allen, Asbury, Aull, Bahr, Bernskoetter, Berry, Black, Brandom, Brattin, Brown (Cloria), Conway (Kathie), Conway (Pat), Cookson, Cox, Crawford, Cross, Curtman, Davis, Denison, Dieckhaus, Diehl, Dugger, Elmer, Entlicher, Fallert, Fisher, Fitzwater, Fraker, Franklin, Franz, Guernsey, Haefner, Hampton, Harris, Higdon, Hinson, Hodges, Hoskins, Hough, Houghton, Johnson, Jones (Tim), Jones (Caleb), Keeney, Kelley (Mike), Klippenstein, Koenig, Korman, Kratky, Lair, Lant, Largent, Lauer, Leach, Leara, Lichtenegger, Loehner, Long, Marshall, McCaherty, McGeoghegan, McGhee, McNary, Meadows, Molendorp, Nance, Neth, Nolte, Parkinson, Phillips, Pollock, Quinn, Redmon, Reiboldt, Richardson, Riddle, Rowland, Ruzicka, Sater, Schad, Schatz, Schieber, Schieffer, Schneider, Shively, Shumake, Silvey, Smith (Jason), Solon, Sommer, Stream, Swinger, Thomson, Tilley, Torpey, Wallingford, Wells, Weter, White, Wieland, Wright, Wyatt, and Zerr
Representatives voting against HCS HB 1541:
Anders, Atkins, Brown (Michael), Carlson, Carter, Colona, Ellinger, Ellington, Holsman, Hubbard, Hughes, Hummel, Kander, Kelly (Chris), Kirkton, Lampe, May, McCann Beatty, McCreery, McDonald, McManus, McNeil, Montecillo, Morgan, Nasheed, Newman, Nichols, Oxford, Pace, Pierson, Rizzo, Sifton, Smith (Clem), Spreng, Still, Swearingen, Talboy, Taylor, Walton Gray, Webb, Webber
Representatives who were absent with leave:
Barnes, Day, Flanigan, Funderburk, Jones (Tishaura), Lasater, Scharnhorst, Schoeller, and Schupp