New legislation in the Michigan Senate would empower health care workers to discriminate on the basis of sexual orientation and religion

It has been reported by Think Progress that a Republican member of the Michigan Senate by the name of John Moolenaar has authored a bill that would protect health care professionals who choose to discriminate against those whom they find objectionable for either their “religious beliefs, moral convictions, or ethical principles”. The intended target, it would seem, is the LGBT community, but, from what I can tell, if passed, among other things, it would allow Christians to deny service to Muslims, and, one would assume, vice versa. The proposed legislation, known simply as Senate Bill 975, or the “Religious Liberty and Conscience Protection Act,” just made its way out of the Michigan Senate’s Committee on Health Policy with a favorable review, and it looks as though it may come up for a vote shortly. Here’s how it begins:

A bill to protect religious liberty and rights of conscience in the areas of health care and medical and scientific research as it pertains to employment, education and training, and providing or participating in health care services and to the purchasing of or providing for the purchase of health insurance; to provide immunity from liability; and to prescribe penalties and provide remedies…

As our friends at Think Progress point out, the legislation “also dictates that no public official or entity can deny aid or grants to a facility that discriminates based on conscience, which means that if same-sex recognition changes in Michigan, the state would remain obligated to financially support agencies like Catholic Charities, even if they refuse to serve same-sex couples, as transpired in Illinois.”

I don’t know the history of this particular piece of legislation, but I suspect it may have had it’s origins in what was called the “Julea Ward Freedom Of Conscience Act,” or House Bill 5040. As you’ll recall, that bill, named after a Christian graduate student who had sued Eastern Michigan University, claiming that she was kicked out of the university’s Counseling program after refusing to work with a gay client, passed the Michigan House in June of this year. While Ward’s court case against EMU failed, she became a hero of the bigoted right for her refusal to condone what, in her words, “goes against what the Bible says,” and this resulted in legislation which stated the following.

A public degree or certificate granting college, university, junior college, or community college of this state shall not discipline or discriminate against a student in a counseling, social work, or psychology program because the student refuses to counsel or serve a client as to goals, outcomes, or behaviors that conflict with a sincerely held religious belief of the student, if the student refers the client to a counselor who will provide the counseling or services.

While the legislation passed the House, though, as far as I can tell, it never came to a vote in the Senate, where it was known as Bill 518. From the looks of it, it was referred to the Senate Committee on Education in June of 2011, and has languished there ever since. Which isn’t to say that the Republican may not try to bring it to a vote. (Some people clearly think that they will, as evidenced by this recent petition against it.) As it’s somewhat similar to this new bill being considered by the Senate, though, I’m wondering if perhaps our Republican Senators decided that the Julea Ward Freedom Of Conscience Act, given that it just empowered Michigan’s bigoted students to discriminate, wasn’t broad enough. At least, it seems to me that Senate Bill 975 is likely an attempt to take the earlier evil idea, and make it more evil, by applying it to everything health care related.

I suspect that the Republican leadership might table this for the time being, like they did with the proposed “tax breaks for fetuses” legislation that we discussed a little while ago, but you never know. They could try to sneak it in during the lame duck session… So, just to be safe, if I were you, I’d call your State Senator tomorrow and let them know not only that you’re disgusted by this anti-gay legislation, but that, if it passes, you intend to refuse treatment to every Christian that comes into the health care facility where you work on the grounds that you find their beliefs objectionable… And, while you’re at it, it might not be a bad idea to contact our State’s chapter of the American Medical Association, and let them know that we expect for them to stay true to the Hippocratic Oath, and fight this with everything they’ve got.

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  1. Posted December 4, 2012 at 10:01 pm | Permalink

    If I’m not mistaken, there seems to be a clause in this new bill which states that, in times of life threatening emergency, you’re expected to do your job, regardless of whether you approve of who the dying individual is fucking. (Are other’s seeing that?) It, of course, doesn’t make up for everything else, but I thought that it was worth mentioning, in the spirit of fairness.

  2. Posted December 4, 2012 at 10:55 pm | Permalink

    Are these special rights for those who choose to discriminate?

  3. Posted December 4, 2012 at 10:58 pm | Permalink

    So let’s review. In the past few weeks, Republicans have let us know that they want us to have corporate schools, be a right to work (for less) state, allow discrimination in adoptions, allow discrimination in health care and they also want to get rid of property taxes which I’m reading would gut special education & vo-tech education.

    I really hate to imagine what is next.

  4. Demetrius
    Posted December 5, 2012 at 7:35 am | Permalink

    From the Detroit Free Press:

    “Gov. Rick Snyder, who for more than a year has said the issue is too divisive and not on his agenda, said after a meeting late Tuesday with GOP legislative leaders that right-to-work is now ‘on the agenda’.”

    At virtually the same time, the Michigan Chamber of Commerce, which had been “neutral” on this issue, announced that it was now in support.

    Meanwhile, the first TV ads supporting this legislation, sponsored by the “Michigan Freedom Fund,” aired late yesterday evening on Detroit-area stations.

    Clearly, Michigan Republicans and their corporate allies were itching to mount their coordinated strategy a.s.a.p. — and by the looks of things, told Snyder during yesterdays’ meeting that he needs to either get on board or get out of the way.

  5. Demetrius
    Posted December 5, 2012 at 7:40 am | Permalink

    Sorry … I realize my comment was somewhat off-topic … rather meant to address yet another loathsome part of the state Republicans’ agenda, brought up by TeacherPatti’s comment.

  6. Brainless
    Posted December 5, 2012 at 7:42 am | Permalink

    Isn’t it great that our state constitution is so shitty that we have to keep fighting the same stupid battles?

  7. Edward
    Posted December 5, 2012 at 9:27 am | Permalink

    Just received in my in box.

    No license to discriminate in Michigan.
    Sign now: #p2 #LGBT

    Dear Friend,

    A new bill in the Michigan Senate could allow emergency room doctors and nurses to deny emergency medical care to gay people, women who need a life-saving abortion, and even those with AIDS, for reasons of “conscience.”

    Michigan Senate Bill 975 would provide a “license to discriminate” to hospitals and clinics if a healthcare provider’s “religious beliefs, moral convictions, or ethical principles” dictate that providing a medical care would be a violation of conscience.

    This bill has already passed out of committee and could be voted on by the Michigan Senate any time in this session. Giving permission to doctors and nurses to refuse health care to people just because they are gay or in need of a life-saving abortion, is dangerous and wrong.

    Tell Michigan Republicans: Don’t deny women and gays medical care because of bigotry. Use the link below to sign this petition.

  8. Tony Chen
    Posted December 5, 2012 at 9:36 am | Permalink

    This is the dumbest thing I’ve ever heard. Has anyone asked a survey of doctors if they think this is a good idea? I assure you most would abhor this idea. Many take a modified version of the Hippocratic Oath when graduating from med school:

    Specifically, this statement: “I WILL NOT PERMIT considerations of age, disease or disability, creed, ethnic origin, gender, nationality, political affiliation, race, sexual orientation, social standing or any other factor to intervene between my duty and my patient”. Meaning – if a sick person comes to me, I treat them no matter who they are.

  9. Eel
    Posted December 5, 2012 at 9:39 am | Permalink

    How would one prove that he’s straight? Would a doctor, before beginning an examination, show him videos of Kate Upton dancing while his penis is attached to a blood flow monitor?

  10. facebook stalker
    Posted December 5, 2012 at 12:29 pm | Permalink

    The best exchange on Facebook today.

    Jake Zettelmaier: Why am I skeptical of this source’s interpretation. (I have no idea about this law at all, I’m just skeptical of hot-button interpretations from politically biased bloggers of any persuasion.)

    Mark Maynard: You just have to read it, Jake. I included the link to the legislation.

    Jake Zettelmaier: I’m reading it right now, Mark, and there’s a clause in it that says that they can’t deny services to people for something that they do for other people — so that rules out discriminating against gays/lesbians if they do the same service for heteros.

    Mark Maynard: So, you think this legislation is about protecting health care workers from providing abortions when that’s not something that they’re in the business of doing? I wasn’t aware that there was a huge problem with people forcing podiatrists to perform abortions…

    Jake Zettelmaier: Why they consider this legislation important I assume has something to do with their fears of the implementation of Obamacare. I can’t say for sure, but the fact remains — despite your predictably weak sophist attempt to obfuscate the facts of the case — that the legislation has nothing to do with your politically biased hot-button interpretation of it, of which I’m sure you’re aware.

  11. kjc
    Posted December 5, 2012 at 2:02 pm | Permalink

    “fears of the implementation of Obamacare” = “politically biased hot-button interpretation”

  12. Posted December 5, 2012 at 2:35 pm | Permalink

    “I can’t say for sure, but the fact remains….”

    If he isn’t sure, then the fact can’t remain.

  13. Posted December 5, 2012 at 2:35 pm | Permalink

    Oh wait, I see he is refer to scary Obamacare.

  14. Posted December 5, 2012 at 2:35 pm | Permalink

    Or maybe he’s a reefer.

  15. anonymous
    Posted December 5, 2012 at 2:44 pm | Permalink

    Jake hates big government. Supports increased legislation.

  16. Meta
    Posted December 7, 2012 at 2:35 pm | Permalink

    I know it’s been mentioned in other threads, but I thought it was worth mentioning here that this bill passed the Senate yesterday. The following is from the Detroit Free Press.

    Health care providers could use a “moral objection” or “matter of conscience” standard to refuse service to patients under a bill passed by the state Senate today.

    By a 26-12 vote, the Senate approved the bill, which would allow health care providers — as a matter of conscience — to decline services they object to. It also would allow employers to refuse to pay for services for their employees that “violated the payer’s conscience.”

    The state already has a conscientious objection clause for abortion services, but the new law also could give the green light to doctors to refuse to write birth control prescriptions and opens the door to a refusal of service for all sorts of ailments, said state Sen. Roger Kahn, R-Saginaw.

    Read more:

  17. Tim
    Posted December 12, 2012 at 5:10 am | Permalink

    I’m Pagan, and pansexual. I should not have to worry about my life or wellness being on the line if I have to go to a Catholic hospital or health provider, i.e. St. Joseph Mercy. Will Hope Clinic stop seeing people with whom they disagree? Will they be allowed to turn away people with chronic conditions whom they consider immoral?

    The lack of limits on where the rights of a health professional, provider, payer, etc. are defined is worrisome at least, subordinating my rights to care at worst. It would be even worse in terms of my rights were I a woman.

  18. concerned
    Posted August 14, 2013 at 7:50 am | Permalink

    America! You need God. Remember you never created yourself. It might be wise not to force doctors to attend to all kinds of patients,Allow them to object except in times of emergency. Denying them conscientious objection is not only torture to them but a highest form of discrimination. As much as they have a physician’s oath to abide by, they have an oath pledged to God to do EVERYTHING TO PLEASE GOD. Leave them alone because once this world comes to an end (which most of us perceive to be a crazy idea), they will have to give an account to God, not to human beings, most of who will be facing their own fate. America, be saved while you are still alive because nobody repents in hell.

  19. anonymous
    Posted December 15, 2014 at 5:56 pm | Permalink

    A true religious person would not WANT to turn their back on a sick or dying person FOR ANY REASON. Do you think Mother Theresa refused to help people who didn’t believe exactly what she believed? The bible says LOVE THY NEIGHBOR, it also says that man will be judged by GOD, not by other men. As a nurse, it is not my job to figure out what you do in your free time and pass judgment, its my job to treat your illness. Bring me your tired, your weak and your poor, and yes…. bring me your homosexuals and Muslims.
    – A Christian Nurse

6 Trackbacks

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  2. […] public eduction as we know it, and roll back women’s reproductive rights, to kill unions, and enshrine the rights of bigoted health care workers who would prefer not to serve those with values they perceive to be different than their own… […]

  3. […] there are still bills making their way to Snyder’s desk which would, if signed into law, protect the rights of bigots working in the health care field, allow for the unrestrained expansion of for-profit charter schools in the state, and end the […]

  4. […] or health of the mother. If a woman wants such coverage, she must buy a separate rider.” And, as we’ve discussed, there’s also SB 975, or the “Moral Objection” bill, which would make it acceptable for […]

  5. […] of abortion photography on campusBy Mark | March 21, 2013Late last year, I told you about a case that had been brought against Eastern Michigan University by a former student named Julea War…. Ward, as you may recall, maintained that she had been kicked out of the university’s Counseling […]

  6. By License to Discriminate passes Michigan House on December 4, 2014 at 10:03 pm

    […] And this shouldn’t surprise anyone. This is what the Republicans do during the lame duck session. Remember this headline from two years ago today… New legislation in the Michigan Senate would empower health care workers to discriminate on the basi…? […]

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