Conscience laws. Fucking conscience laws.
In this case, the fucking “Health Care Rights of Conscience Act,” Alabama HB31, which would allow the entire hospital staff, including but not limited to physicians, nurses, pharmacists, counselors, and social workers, to refuse to provide medical care in situations that would “violate their conscience.”
Now, this doesn’t apply to every potentially objectionable procedure a hospital might perform — only abortion, human cloning, human embryonic stem cell research, and sterilization. Only things that allow them to pit the life of a fetus against the life of a person.
Section 4. (a) A health care provider has the right not to participate, and no health care provider shall be required to participate, in a health care service that violates his or her conscience when the health care provider has objected in writing prior to being asked to provide such health care services.
(b) No health care provider shall be civilly, criminally, or administratively liable for declining to participate in a health care service that violates his or her conscience except when failure to do so would immediately endanger the life of a patient.
So if a woman comes into the hospital in the throes of a miscarriage and her life isn’t in immediate danger (in which case they would be required to treat her until a non-objecting provider could be found), by law every provider in the ER can refuse to treat her if treatment would result in the termination of the pregnancy.
So if you’re about to die, then yes, they’re required to treat you until another health care provider can be brought in. If it’s merely your health that’s in danger? Your mental health? Your future fertility? If you aren’t dying now from hemorrhaging but will ultimately die later from sepsis because no one was willing to treat you when you first came in? That’s a shame, and (legally) not the hospital’s fault. As with Savita Halappanavar, who died in excruciating pain from septicemia after a hospital — in Ireland, “a Catholic country” — refused to treat her for her miscarriage because the fetus still had a heartbeat. And if that were to happen to a woman in Alabama, there would be no recourse or punishment to the hospital, because conscience.
(e) Except as otherwise provided in this section, a hospital, as defined in Section 22-21-20, Code of Alabama, 1975, or other health care entity, and any employee, physician, member, or person associated with the hospital or other health care entity is immune from liability for any damage caused by the refusal of a health care provider to participate in a health care service defined in this act at a facility owned, operated, or controlled by the hospital or other health care entity.
So ultimately, the penalty for refusing to provide treatment even when no other provider is available is… nothing. The penalty for knowing that none of the physicians on hand would be willing to administer care and not bothering to find anyone who will is nothing. If your conscience is bothered, a woman’s life is worth nothing.
HB31 has passed the House and was expected to go before the state Senate this past week, before winter weather threw the state into a tailspin. If you’re in Alabama, contact your state senator to let them know that saving a woman’s life isn’t a matter of conscience. And if you’re not in Alabama? Primary sponsor Becky Nordren (R-29) and cosponsor April Weaver (R-49) don’t appear to understand the potential impact of this bill on women’s lives. If you do understand, you might shoot them an e-mail to help them out.