Nebraska Considers Conscientious Objection Bill

LINCOLN, Neb. (AP) – Nebraska lawmakers are following the lead of another conservative state in considering a bill that would allow health care providers, institutions and insurers to cite their religious, moral and ethical beliefs in refusing certain medical treatments. Critics say it’s just another way to target abortion rights and the LGBTQ community.

The bill, introduced by Sen. Dave Moorman of Glenville, casts a wide net. The term “healthcare providers” includes everyone from doctors, nurses, and pharmacists to mental health counselors and nursing home staff—all of whom can refuse to perform non-emergency procedures, from abortions and gender-affirming hormone therapy to prescribing birth control—if the provider moral objection to it.

The bill covers nearly three pages of language protection providers who conscientiously refuse to provide treatment from lawsuits, criminal charges, and professional misconduct charges.

The bill also allows medical practices, clinics and hospitals to refuse treatment based on conscientious objection, and allows businesses and health insurance companies to refuse to pay for treatment on the same grounds.

Moorman said the measure would not give those providers and facilities carte blanche to discriminate against patients. A doctor who claims to be a Christian could not refuse to treat someone because that person is a Muslim or vice versa.

“This practice is specific, not patient-specific,” Moorman said Friday at a bill hearing before the Legislature’s Health and Human Services Committee.

A similar bill is being considered in Montana, and in 2021, Arkansas passed its own conscientious objection law. In Idaho, a bill aimed broadly at LGBTQ residents would allow therapists and mental health counselors to refuse to treat clients if the client’s goals or behavior are inconsistent with the counselor’s “sincere principles” as set forth by a legislative committee, narrowly nominated on Thursday to oppose.

Jane Seau, a legal and policy adviser for the American Civil Liberties Union, was among those who opposed the Nebraska bill on Friday, saying it would “give medical professionals an absurd license to discriminate against their patients for almost any reason.” .”

“This license to discriminate is felt most strongly in rural areas where patients have limited choices of health care providers,” he said.

Eliana Siebe-Wallace, a 20-year-old student at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln who uses their surrogate, told the committee that they suffer from a reproductive condition that can be treated with birth control hormones.

“Under this bill, a provider can prevent me from getting the treatment I need,” they said.

Outside the hearing, Siebe-Wallace said their main concern is that the bill could be used by health care workers to discriminate, “especially against people of color and people of color who are already at a greater disadvantage than others when it comes to receiving care.” it is expensive. »

That fear is also spreading in Idaho, where a bill to ban all gender-affirming medical care is about to pass the Idaho House. That, combined with the conscientious objection law for mental health workers, has some LGBTQ residents and allies worried that young people there will soon face a near-universal barrier to health care.

Chris Hunting, a transgender parent raising a transgender teenager in southwest Idaho, was denied treatment by his own longtime therapist several years ago after coming out as transgender. The Huntings are now concerned about their son’s access to health care, even though the 15-year-old has yet to show interest in gender-affirming medical care.

“One thing I’ve really struggled with is that his doctor knows he’s a transfer,” Hunting said Thursday. “Was it something I mentioned to her doctor medically, or is she no longer going to get treatment for her depression and anxiety that she’s had all her life — because it’s related to her gender dysphoria diagnosis or because of that. Maybe a therapist don’t you like that?”

The American Medical Association’s Code of Medical Ethics states that physicians have an ethical obligation to provide care in medical emergencies, and that physicians “shall have an ethical responsibility not to discriminate against a potential patient on the basis of race, sex, sexual orientation, or sexual identity. , or other personal or social characteristics that are clinically irrelevant to the individual’s care.

With that in mind, doctors can refuse to provide treatment “in certain limited circumstances,” including if a patient requests care that is “inconsistent with the doctor’s deeply held, religious or moral beliefs,” according to the code.


Associated Press writers Rebecca Boone in Boise, Idaho and Lindsey Tanner in Chicago contributed to this report.

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