(Updated to delete a reference to HB 1680, which will be addressed in a separate post.)
Today’s chapter in the annals of Aren’t-You-Glad-You-Have-a-Republican-Legislature: the New Hampshire House Judiciary Committee has voted “inexpedient to legislate” on HB 1787, a bill to provide conscience protections for medical personnel. The committee recommendation will go to the full House next week.
Voting against the motion to kill the bill were four representatives, all Republican: Joseph Hagan of Chester, Gary Hopper of Weare, Kurt Wuelper of Strafford, and Dan Hynes of Merrimack.
Voting in favor of the “inexpedient to legislate” motion: Reps. Claire Rouillard (R-Goffstown), Michael Sylvia (R-Belmont), Kathleen Hoelzel (R-Raymond), Robert Graham (R-Milton), Jason Janvrin (R-Seabrook), John Leavitt (R-Hooksett), Janet Wall (D-Madbury), Timothy Horrigan (D-Durham), Paul Berch (D-Westmoreland), Suzanne Smith (D-Hebron), Linda Kenison (D-Concord), Sandra Keans (D-Rochester), Charlotte DiLorenzo (D-Newmarket), and Debra Altschiller (D-Stratham).
HB 1721, to prevent coerced abortions: ITL, 15-3
On the same day, the committee recommended “inexpedient to legislate” on a bill to prevent coerced abortions. The vote was 15-3. Representatives Wuelper, Hopper, and Leavitt voted against the ITL motion.
In declining to hear a case about conscience rights, a decision coinciding with Fortnight for Freedom, the U. S. Supreme Court just underscored the vulnerability of professionals who refuse in the course of their work to participate in ending human life.
The case involved pharmacists in Washington state who challenged a rule by the Washington Board of Pharmacy. Americans United for Life issued a recent statement summarizing the case.
The U.S. Supreme Court [on June 28, 2016] declined an opportunity to hear Stormans v. Wiesman, a challenge to a 2007 Washington Board of Pharmacy rule that punishes pharmacists and pharmacy owners with religious objections to stocking drugs with known life-ending effects. “Despite this missed opportunity to correct an unconstitutional abuse of power, the Washington State rule that punishes pharmacists and pharmacy owners who respect unborn life can and should be immediately repealed,” said Clarke Forsythe, AUL Acting President and Senior Counsel.
“The rule at issue in the Stormans case is unfortunately one of many examples where abortion advocates are pushing an extreme agenda of coercion under the faulty guise of ‘choice.’ As AUL has written about extensively, Planned Parenthood’s fingerprints are all over the unnecessary and unconstitutional rule,” continued Forsythe.
Chief Justice John Roberts and Justices Clarence Thomas and Samuel Alito disagreed with their colleagues who voted not to hear the Stormans appeal. As this year’s Fortnight for Freedom comes to a close, the words of Alito’s dissent are timely.
I would [hear the case] to ensure that Washington’s novel and concededly unnecessary burden on religious objectors does not trample on fundamental rights….
This case is an ominous sign. At issue are Washington State regulations that are likely to make a pharmacist unemployable if he or she objects on religious grounds to dispensing certain prescription medications. There are strong reasons to doubt whether the regulations were adopted for—or that they actually serve—any legitimate purpose. And there is much evidence that the impetus for the adoption of the regulations was hostility to pharmacists whose religious beliefs regarding abortion and contraception are out of step with prevailing opinion in the State. Yet the Ninth Circuit held that the regulations do not violate the First Amendment, and this Court does not deem the case worthy of our time. If this is a sign of how religious liberty claims will be treated in the years ahead, those who value religious freedom have cause for great concern.
Do you want to know who’d like to see coerced abortions in New Hampshire? Come to room 205 of the Legislative Office Building Thursday and see who comes out against a bill protecting conscience rights for medical professionals.
I’m not talking about people who might have questions about the form the bill should take or who might say the bill is unnecessary. I mean watch out for the people who call conscience protections a threat to “access” to contraception, abortion, assisted reproduction, what have you. When you hear testimony about squelching conscience rights in favor of “access,” you’re hearing a pitch for coerced abortions.
There’s more than one way to coerce an abortion. One is to forcibly terminate a woman’s pregnancy, against her will. Another is to force someone to participate in the termination.
Representatives Warren Groen of Rochester and Richard Gordon of East Kingston are proposing HB 670 to prohibit discrimination against health care providers who conscientiously object to participating in any health care services. Violations would be dealt with using civil penalties, not criminal sanctions. “Conscience” is defined in the bill as “the religious, moral, or ethical principles held by a health care provider, a health care institution, or a health care payer…. [A] health care institution or health care payer’s conscience shall be determined by reference to its existing or proposed religious, moral, or ethical guidelines; mission statement; constitution; bylaws; articles of incorporation; regulations; or other relevant documents.”
The bill would protect any individual who may be asked in any way to participate in a health care service. The protection wouldn’t be limited to people with medical degrees or titles. If you’re at all involved in patient care, HB 670 would protect you.
A similar but slightly different bill was tabled in 2012. The chairman of Judiciary at that time told his colleagues that while the language was flawed, the committee favored the idea of such a bill. There was an opposing view, written as a minority report by then-Rep. Rick Watrous: conscience protections were “anti-patient and anti-business and would inject chaos and uncertainty into New Hampshire health care.”
A preview of testimony this week? Could be.
Conscience: what a burden. Better guard it before someone finds it too inconvenient to tolerate.