Nebraska Considers Bill to protect right of conscience

By Nebraska Right to Life

The Nebraska State Legislature Health and Human Services Committee heard testimony Friday, February 10 on a bill that would protect medical practitioners, healthcare institutions and healthcare payers from discrimination, punishment, or retaliation as a result of any instance of conscientious medical objection, which would include a refusal to perform abortion.

Senator Dave Murman of Glenvil, Nebraska introduced LB810 saying he had concerns that conservative and Christian medical students are hesitating to enter the medical field out of fear they will have to participate in treatments that violate their religious beliefs.

Senator Murman testified that 23% of medical practitioners face discrimination based on their beliefs, and 20% don’t pursue specific positions out of fear of discrimination.

Under LB810, named the “Medical Ethics and Diversity Act,” proponents of the bill testified from various medical fields including OB/GYN, Internal Medicine, Pharmaceutical, Psychology and policy groups such as Nebraska Right to Life.

Sandy Danek, executive director, testified. She said “Many medical professionals do not want to be forced to participate in certain controversial technologies and treatments such as abortion or unethical research. By providing conscience protections, LB810 would ensure that Nebraska does not lose well-trained medical professionals who wish to exercise the professional judgement for the best interest of their patients, born and preborn.”

Several physicians who testified in support of LB810 said they’ve heard from multiple medical students who are concerned about facing discrimination for their beliefs, so much so that they feared testifying.

“The reason these students are not here is the reason this bill needs to be passed,” said Nebraska physician Carolyn Manhart.

HHS Committee member Senator Jen Day of Omaha questioned whether the bill was discriminatory against patients. She suggested that if a practitioner was not willing to provide a medical service covered in their field, perhaps they should practice in a different area of medicine.

Senator Murman, sponsor of the bill, pointed out that LB810 wouldn’t just apply to Christian and conservative beliefs, but would protect all viewpoints.“It is protecting the diversity of belief within the medical field,” Murman said.

Danek testified saying “When deciding which medical provider is best for one’s care, Nebraskans will often consider a physician’s moral and ethical standards of medicine. Some would not consider going to a physician who believes in the taking of innocent human life by either performing or supporting abortion or assisted suicide, and Nebraskans should be allowed to make that judgement.”

The bill is expected to advance from the HHS Committee to receive debate by the full body of the Unicameral.