Missouri lawmakers are renewing their efforts to bolster conscience protections in Missouri law for health care professionals and institutions. House Speaker Tim Jones
of Eureka has reintroduced a bill which would prohibit employment discrimination against medical
professionals who decline to participate in morally objectionable procedures.
The legislation proposed by Speaker Jones, House Bill 1430, would also secure the legal right of faith-based health care institutions to refuse to provide medical services which violate their religious doctrines. The proposal will be heard this week in the House Health Care Policy Committee.
The health care conscience rights bill has been approved in the House the last two sessions with overwhelming bipartisan votes, but the Missouri Senate has chosen not to take up the legislation either year.
The bill would ensure that medical professionals could not be compelled to participate in "specified medical procedures or research" under threat of loss of
employment or other adverse employment action. Medical procedures covered by the legislation include abortion, abortion-inducing drugs, sterilization and assisted reproduction. Research procedures encompassed by the bill include human cloning, embryonic stem-cell research, somatic cell nuclear transfer, fetal tissue research, and nontherapeutic fetal experimentation.
Medical professionals who would receive enhanced conscience protection under the law include physicians, physician assistants, registered nurses, licensed practical nurses, medical assistants, and students undergoing training in those health care professions. The bill would also extend protection to medical researchers employed by health care institutions or medical research
Discriminatory actions which would be prohibited under the terms of the bill include termination, suspension, demotion, reduction of wages or benefits, and other retaliatory actions. Actions by an employer to reassign a medical professional to a position where they would not face conscience concerns would not constitute retaliation, so long as no demotion was involved.
The issue of conscience rights in the health care arena has been amplified in recent years by high-profile cases involving hospitals who coerced or attempted to coerce nurses to participate in abortions. Concerns about
conscience protections have been further heightened by the implementation of Obamacare, with its increased federal oversight of the practice of medicine.
House Bill 1430 would also guarantee that hospitals with a religious mission could not be required to provide medical procedures or services that contradict the institution's religious, moral, or ethical guidelines. Such facilities would be shielded from both criminal and civil liability for declining to furnish morally objectionable services. Individual health care practitioners operating independently would also be provided the same legal immunity.
Missouri's current conscience statute was enacted in 1986, and dealt exclusively with the subject of surgical abortion. Since then, "advances" in the abortion
industry have led to drugs that cause chemical abortions, and the mass marketing of so-called "emergency contraceptives" which function as abortifacients. On the medical research front, Missouri has tragically been saddled with Amendment 2, which made human cloning a constitutionally protected practice.
The problem with the current law is not only its limited scope, but two major loopholes contained in the law which render it highly unenforceable. The statute can be skirted if an institution can claim that compliance would cause an "undue hardship," or if the performance of abortions is deemed a "bonafide occupational qualification."
Efforts to enact stronger conscience protections in Missouri law have run aground in the last two years in the Missouri Senate. The bills have become casualties of
an unwritten Senate policy to only pass one substantive pro-life bill each year. We pray that this year Senate leaders will choose to prioritize this vital proposal.
We urge you to contact your state representative to urge his or her support for House Bill 1430. You can send such a message by using this link:Missouri House