Could Nebraska’s Extended Conscience Clause Let Women Die In the Name of Religious Freedom?
The senate has defeated the Blunt Amendment, which would allow religious employers to opt out of any medical coverage they find “morally objectionable,” but that doesn’t mean the fight over “religious freedom” is going away. Republicans in Congress are expected to continue to bring up conscience clause bills as the campaign season continues, and the same type of bills will likely also be hitting state legislatures, too.
One example? A proposed extended conscience clause being introduced in Nebraska. Supporters of the bill want to ensure that those in various medical fields, from doctors to pharmacists to health care providers and mental health professionals, have the ability to object to performing any action for a patient that they feel would go against their religious beliefs.
Initially created to allow pharmacists to refuse to sell birth control, or counselors to refuse to assist patients who were homosexual, the new law would protect those objector both from lawsuits for refusing to serve patients, as well as ensure they aren’t fired or receive any sort of punishment for their actions.
Unlike traditional conscience clause rules, however, this new version would allow the objector to refuse to transfer the request on to any other medical professional, either. In other words, a counselor with the gay client could refuse to make a referral to another professional, or the pharmacist who will not provide the prescription would not be required to have another person fill it instead, or even transfer the prescription to another store where it could be filled.
Not even if there was a medical emergency.
The Omaha World Herald reports, “The amendment bars consideration of whether an employee’s refusal creates an undue burden or hardship. Nor does it provide an exception for medical emergencies…Suzanne Gage of Americans United for Life said most objections relate to elective services that patients can get care from other providers. ‘The access is there,’ she said.”
Most, but not all. Take, for example, the case of the Idaho pharmacist who refused to fill a woman’s prescription for a drug that was meant to stop hemorrhaging, because he assumed that she needed it because she just had an abortion. The pharmacist, who was investigated after a complaint was filed, was cleared by the board because the patient was able to take her prescription elsewhere to have it filled, and they declared it was not an “undue hardship.”
Now, imagine if the pharmacist was allowed to refuse to transfer her prescription, even if it was a medical emergency. The patient literally could have bled to death trying to get another prescription and find a new place to have it filled, and legally the pharmacist would be protected from any ramifications.
Should medical professionals not only have the ability to deny you care in life threatening situations, but have the support of the state in doing so? Nebraska appears to be thinking the answer is yes. And if they continue to pass the bill, you can expect many other states to follow suit.
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