We love protecting freedom of religion and expression here at the ACLU. It's sort of our thing, which made it hurt this morning when a Michigan Senate committee passed dangerous, discriminatory legislation under the false guise of protecting such rights.
In a move that once again demonstrates how out of touch the Michigan Legislature is with the public it purportedly represents, the Senate Health Policy Committee passed the License to Discriminate Bill (Senate Bill 136), which allows medical facilities to refrain from offering health care services and procedures based on religious or moral standards.
Who can calculate the devastating real-life impact of allowing hospitals, medical groups, insurance companies, pharmacies and research universities to refuse to care for those in need?
If they succeed, hospitals could refuse to perform medically necessary abortions for pregnant women in life-threatening situations. This means a pregnant woman could be left to die in a hospital emergency room because of the religious beliefs of the hospital owners.
The impact of this license to discriminate is not limited to abortion alone. The legislation could also be used by health care providers to deny sexual assault survivors emergency contraception or deny treatment to patients based on their HIV status.
While we all have a right to our religious beliefs, this does not give us the right to use our religion as a license to discriminate and impose those beliefs on others who do not share them.
Senator Rebekah Warren offered some common-sense amendments: they all failed. Her crazy ideas?
Protecting patients' rights by requiring health care professionals and institutions make patients aware that they wouldn't’t provide service they object to.
Protecting people's lives by refusing to allow medical service to be refused when there are no other medical facilities available within a 25 mile radius.
She also suggested requiring medical institutions and professionals provide health care in emergency situations. The committee, shockingly, refused.
If we allow institutions charged with taking care of our health to refuse services because of religious beliefs, we all – regardless of our own beliefs – could face substantial and sometimes insurmountable obstacles when we seek medical care.
Senate Bill 136 now awaits a vote by the full Senate. Let your senator know you stand against this incredibly dangerous legislation.
Merissa Kovach, Field Organizer