Idaho Legislature Passes "Conscience" Bill
Idaho's House of Representatives passed a "conscience clause" bill this week, which will allow health care professionals to deny access to contraception, abortion, stem-cell, end-of-life treatment or medication on the basis of their conscience. According to State Representative Tom Loertscher (R), the bill's House sponsor, any health care worker, be it a pharmacist or a doctor, "would not have to provide a service that was not in agreement with their conscience," reported The Spokesman-Review. The bill was previously approved by the state Senate before the House approved it overwhelmingly on a 51 to 18 vote this week. The legislation now goes to Idaho Governor C.L. "Butch" Otter for final approval.
State Representative John Rusche (D), a physician, told The Spokesman-Review, "Certainly issues of conscience are important to all of us and should be respected. The bigger issue in this is really who's watching out for the patient?"
State Representative Grant Burgoyne (D), said the citizens of Idaho will view the bill as "an extraordinary intrusion by government into their private lives...trampling on their right to be left alone to make their own decisions about life and death."
The current bill was composed by anti-abortion advocates associated with Idaho Chooses Life, reported The Spokesman-Review.
A similar bill was passed by the Louisiana House of Representatives and was sent to its state Senate last year. This legislation stemmed from a Bush-era regulation released in December 2008 that established new protections for health care providers who refuse to provide certain services based on moral or religious bases. The provisions of the regulation placed the burden on women to seek out individual providers who will provide certain kinds of treatment, including birth control, abortion and sterilization.
The regulations drew widespread protest. During a month-long public commenting period, the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) received tens of thousands of comments against the regulations, including letters opposing it from at least 13 state attorney generals and six medical groups. The Obama Administration moved to rescind these HHS regulations in March 2009.
Media Resources: The Spokesman-Review 3/17/10; Feminist Daily Newswire 5/22/09