NH reps seek conscience protections for medical professionals

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.

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