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Idaho Senate passes conscience bill 21-13


Idaho Senate Bill 1353, permitting licensed health care professionals to decline, for moral reasons, health services defined as "an abortion, dispensation of an abortifacient drug, human embryonic stem cell research, treatment  regimens utilizing human embryonic stem cells, human embryo cloning or end of life treatment and care," passed by  a  21-13 vote in the Senate this week.   This bill now goes to the House for consideration, which last year passed a far more sweeping and insidious "House Bill No. 216, As Amended," but which thankfully did not make it through the Senate health committee.  I wrote an article for Examiner last March on the House bill entitled, "Idaho pharmacy conscience House Bill 216 - Travesty or Parody?"  Indeed.

There is so much wrong with the Senate bill that it is difficult to know where to start, or at what level to attack its faults.  Fortunately, unlike the House bill, it is quite narrow in scope, although the inclusion of "end of life treatment and care" is quite troubling.  Presumably, a health care professional who is morally repulsed by addictive substances could refuse morphine to a patient suffering from agonizing pain.  That is clearly not the intent, but we all know about the law of unintended consequences, particularly as it pertains to measures drawn up in haste by zealots who will stop at nothing to achieve their goals.  In this case, it's the anti-abortionists who are determined to end legal abortions in this country, one way or another.

To my knowledge, no thorough study has been commissioned to ascertain the need for such legislation.  People in all walks of life have moral issues that they are deeply concerned about, yet there is no movement to accommodate their idiosyncrasies at their places of employment, which leads one to conclude that if the job offends them, they don't apply for it.   To pander to a single issue, to a single constituency sets a dangerous precedent, and permits the beneficiaries to commit considerable mischief on the job that previously would have been grounds for dismissal.  At best, the bill is highly discriminatory in that it panders to one political group only, while ignoring the equally or more compelling moral issues affecting the rest of the people.  How about those two wars, for example, that are bankrupting us at home and slaughtering innocent civilians abroad?

Then there is the question of why the legislature is wasting its time furthering the political agenda of one group of people while so many real problems, such as unemployment and lack of adequate health care, plague so many more, and about which little is done, and virtually nothing by Republicans.

Then there are the deficiencies within the bill itself.  I named one above.  Another is the exception clause, which applies only in "life-threatening emergencies," so presumably a provider could watch a patient writhing in horrific pain, yet legally deny any of the excepted services.  A third problem is that the onus is on the employer to demonstrate that his/her wayward employees are causing him/her  "undue hardship."  What happened to the Idaho spirit of entrepreneurial freedom?  In a state dominated by Republicans, who steadfastly reject government solutions in favor of the magic of the marketplace, this bill constitutes stunning hypocrisy and governmental meddling.

Finally, as if to mock the entire effort, there is a clause prohibiting discrimination within this discriminatory bill itself, based on "a patient’s race, color, religion, sex, age, disability or national origin."  So, if smokers, fat people, gay people, or liberals offend your moral sensibilities, feel free to deny them your services.

Read the bill.  It's quite short.  I'm sure you will find deficiencies that I haven't thought of, and do read some of the comments after the articles, too.  The condemnation of this bill by readers seemed pretty unanimous and persuasive to me.


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