Re: Wisconsin Assembly Bill 67
Testimony before Wisconsin Senate Committee
on Health, Children, Families, Aging and Long-Term Care
October 7, 2003
I would like to thank the committee and
Chairperson Roessler for hearing my testimony to AB
67. My name is Matthew Lee. I am a board-certified
obstetrician-gynecologist in private practice at St.
Joseph Regional Medical Center in Milwaukee,
Wisconsin. I have been there in practice for four
years. I have a clinical appointment at the Medical
College of Wisconsin as a Clinical Associate
At first when I heard about this bill I had no
thoughts about coming to Madison and making my views
known. The bill seemed to make sense and did not
seem too controversial. Wisconsin already has
"conscience clause" legislation and fair employment
laws. AB 67 seemed to me to be an update of this
legislation with regard to developing technologies
and making the employment law more enforceable.
However, I began to hear many criticisms of the bill
and thought that I could help answer some of those
I will first divulge my bias on these issues. I
will stick to reproductive issues since that is my
main field. I view abortion as morally wrong in all
cases except for an immediate need to save the life
of the mother. (Here I use the Webster's dictionary
definition for life not the U. S. Supreme Court's
definition). I recognize that abortion is legal in
the United States as regulated by states. My view is
that most contraception is not abortion, however the
IUD is troubling enough morally to preclude my
usage. I perform sterilization procedures. I am
opposed to using fetal tissue for research.
As I understand it, the opposition to this
legislation revolves around the following arguments.
First, that this legislation would reduce the rights
of Wisconsin citizens. Second, that a law already
exists. Third, some covered activities are illegal
in Wisconsin already. Fourth, as regards to
employment discrimination, no one has complained
about workplace discrimination. Lastly, although not
stated but implied, pharmacist are in no need of the
same protection that current state law extends to
hospitals, nurses, and physicians.
Instead of answering each of these charges
separately, I believe I can boil these problems down
to two issues that are at the heart of this debate.
First the question: Is the practice of medicine
morally neutral? By that I mean can I as a physician
divorce my own beliefs about life from my practice?
Do you really want your physician to be amoral? My
covenant with my patient is to do all that I can to
treat her and to respect her autonomy. A covenant
has two parties however, and it is my duty to tell
my patient that I cannot participate in an act that
is contrary to my convictions. The physician has
autonomy in this relationship as well. The people of
the State of Wisconsin speaking through their
elected officials agree with this proposition as
expressed through the current "conscience clause"
This brings me to my next point: consistency. The
arguments against this proposed legislation seem to
be devoid of consistency. I have as yet to hear
anyone call for the elimination of our current law,
most seem to accept it as fact. However, a right to
exercise conscience either exists or it does not.
Conscience is by definition a personal
worldview. Thoughtful people of faith will disagree
on issues such as abortion, euthanasia, stem-cell
research or sterilization. This proposed legislation
logically extends the same protection granted for
abortion and sterilization to activities that are
trapped in similar ethical quagmires.
Thank you for your time and attention to this