By Kathleen Gilbert

BATON ROUGE, Louisiana, June 26, 2009 ( – Louisiana lawmakers Wednesday approved a law affirming the conscience rights of both private and public healthcare workers in the state who object to performing abortion or physician-assisted suicide, or administering abortifacient drugs.

The Healthcare Workers Conscience Act (HB-517) won approval in the Senate with a 31-2 vote, and the House 88-12.

“Any person has the right not to participate in, and no person shall be required to participate in any health care service that violates his conscience to the extent that patient access to health care is not compromised,” states the bill in part.

“No person shall be held civilly or criminally liable, discriminated against, dismissed, demoted, or in anyway prejudiced or damaged for declining to participate in any health care service that violates his conscience.”

The document adds that “Health care service” refers to “abortion, dispensation of abortifacient drugs, human embryonic stem cell research, human embryo cloning, euthanasia, or physician-assisted suicide.”

HB-517 had undergone an amendment narrowing the conscience protection to public employees, but Sen. Jody Amedee led successful efforts to strip the restricting language before the bill's passage. 

Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal, who has a strong pro-life record, has promised to sign the bill.

The bill follows the refusal of the Louisiana State Supreme Court in May to hear an appeal by a hospital found to have wrongly discriminated against a nurse for her conscientious conduct.

An appeals court had sided with Nurse Toni Lemly, who contested her demotion in 2005 for refusing to dispense the abortifacient morning-after pill.

See related coverage:

Request by Louisiana Hospital for Summary Judgment against Pro-Life Nurse “Denied”: State Supreme Court 


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