The Alabama House passed a bill last week that would allow healthcare providers to turn away services related to ending a pregnancy, if it offends their moral, religious or ethical values.
The bill doesn’t just apply to abortions, stem cell research, and human cloning. Women undergoing a miscarriage could also be denied service, says Jenny Lee, an attorney for the American Civil Liberties Union.
Bill sponsor Rep. Becky Nordgren, R-Gadsden, says the “Health Care Rights of Conscience Act” is meant to protect healthcare workers from being forced to do anything against their religious beliefs.
“It simply affords and provides an option, or a choice, to that provider,” said Rep. Greg Wren, R-Montgomery.
Senior vice president of government relations for the Alabama Hospital Association, Danne Williams, said the organization worked with bill sponsors.
“We didn’t have any problems with it,” she told the Montgomery Adviser. “I don’t know of any specific incidents that have occurred that precipitated this.”
The ACLU says the law puts the life and long-term health of mothers in danger.
“All miscarriages can be devastating. But, for women in Alabama, this nightmare could soon get a lot worse,” wrote Lee. “This week, the Alabama Senate is set to consider a cruel bill (HB 31) that would permit the hospital staff, including any doctor, nurse, counselor, or lab technician, to refuse to participate in any phase of patient medical care related to ending a pregnancy, even if that is what a patient like this woman needs to protect her own health and future fertility.”
Rep. Patricia Todd, D-Birmingham, said she’d support the plan if sponsors could show her five instances in which hospital workers were forced to do something against their religion.
“This is not the most pressing issue facing Alabama today,” said Todd. “This is a feel-good bill to me. This is ‘I want to throw some red meat at people to show I’m really against abortion.’”
“Rep. Becky Nordgren's ‘Health Care Rights of Conscience Act’ is a bill designed more than anything to show voters she hates abortion,” wrote Alabama reporter John Archibald in an editoral for the AL.com.
“Good to know Alabama Legislators, who don't seem to care much about feeding or educating people, are ready to protect them against forced cloning,” he added.