Freedom of Conscience for Healthcare Professionals Upheld in Illinois, Trampled in California

Alliance Defending Freedom Blog

Sarah Kramer

In a dazzling display of government overreach, the states of Illinois and California have demanded that pro-life healthcare professionals promote abortion – the very thing they have dedicated their careers to preventing.

Thankfully, an Illinois state court acknowledged this problem when it ruled that pro-life healthcare professionals and pregnancy centers in Illinois cannot be forced to refer for abortions or to tell pregnant women that abortion has “benefits” and is a “treatment option” for pregnancy.

Unfortunately, healthcare professionals in California were denied the same freedom, when a federal court refused to rehear the case after ruling to uphold a California law last year. . . .For our clients, being forced to promote abortion is absolutely unthinkable. . . [Full text]

 

 

Doctor, multiple pregnancy care centers file federal suit over Illinois mandate to promote abortion

SB 1564 violates federal law, Constitution

News Release

Alliance Defending Freedom

ROCKFORD, Ill. – Alliance Defending Freedom attorneys representing multiple pregnancy care centers, a pregnancy care center network, and a doctor and her medical practice filed suit Thursday in federal court against Gov. Bruce Rauner after he recently signed a bill into law that forces them to promote abortion regardless of their ethical or moral views. The lawsuit also names Bryan Schneider, secretary of the Illinois Department of Financial and Professional Regulation.

ADF sent a letter to Rauner in May on behalf of numerous pro-life physicians, pregnancy care centers, and pregnancy care center network organizations advising him that the bill, SB 1564, would violate federal law and therefore place federal funding, including Medicaid reimbursements, in jeopardy. ADF also warned legislators about the problems with the bill last year. The lawsuit claims the new law, which is actually an amendment to the existing Illinois Healthcare Right of Conscience Act, violates federal law and the U.S. Constitution.

“No state should attempt to rob women of the freedom to choose a pro-life doctor, but that is the choice that Illinois is eliminating by mandating that pro-life physicians and entities make or arrange abortion referrals. To make matters worse, the state did this by amending a law designed specifically to protect freedom of conscience,” said ADF Senior Counsel Matt Bowman. “As our lawsuit explains, the law is incompatible with the U.S. Constitution and both federal and state law, which protect citizens from being forced by the government to live and act in a way contrary to their faith and conscience.”

The new law forces pregnancy care centers, medical facilities, and physicians who conscientiously object to involvement in abortions to adopt policies that provide women who ask for abortions with a list of providers “they reasonably believe may offer” them. Both federal and state law prohibit the government from placing burdens on religious conscience without a compelling interest for doing so. Additionally, the Illinois Constitution protects “liberty of conscience,” saying that “no person shall be denied any civil or political right, privilege or capacity, on account of his religious opinions.” Both the Illinois Constitution and the U.S. Constitution protect free speech, which includes the right not to be compelled by government to speak a message contrary to one’s own conscience.

“Medical professionals and pregnancy care centers shouldn’t be forced to speak a message completely at odds with their mission and ethics,” explained ADF Senior Counsel Kevin Theriot. “The centers offer women free information and services and do so at no cost to the government. They empower women who are or think they may be pregnant to give birth in circumstances where they may want to but don’t feel they have the necessary resources or social support. All SB 1564 accomplishes is to eliminate this choice for the women who need it most.”

Mauck & Baker LLC attorneys Noel Sterett and Whitman Briskey, two of nearly 3,100 private attorneys allied with ADF, are co-counsel in the case, National Institute of Family and Life Advocates v. Rauner, filed in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Illinois. ADF attorneys filed a similar lawsuit in state court last month.

  • Pronunciation guide: Bowman (BOH’-min)

Alliance Defending Freedom is an alliance-building, non-profit legal organization that advocates for the right of people to freely live out their faith.

Winnebago County LPN Sues Over Loss Of Job Due To Religious Beliefs

Northern Public Radio

A licensed practical nurse is suing the Winnebago County Health Department over allegedly violating her religious conscience.

Sandra Mendoza worked in the pediatrics unit until it was consolidated with women’s health and began offering contraception and abortion referrals.  Citing her Catholic beliefs, she petitioned for an accommodation from the hospital.  Her attorney, Noel Sterett, says what was offered in July of last year, either inspecting food or nursing home work, amounted to a demotion. . . [Full Text]

  

Does an Illinois bill threaten doctors’ conscience rights? Depends on whom you ask

Catholic News Agency

Matt Hadro

Springfield, Ill., May 29, 2015 / 03:13 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- An Illinois bill that some say threatens the conscience rights of medical providers is currently under consideration in the state’s general assembly.

Catholics and pro-lifers are divided among themselves over the implications of SB 1564 for the conscience rights of medical providers.

While the state’s Catholic Conference is neutral on the bill, the Christian legal group Alliance Defending Freedom states that it “would force medical facilities and physicians who conscientiously object to involvement in abortions (and other procedures) to refer for, make arrangements for someone else to perform, or arrange referral information that lists willing providers, for abortions.” . . . [Full text]

 

Illinois controversy about legislative overreach

 Catholic bishops withdraw opposition, others remain opposed

Confrontation centres on complicity

Sean Murphy*

 Introduction

Among American states, Illinois has the most comprehensive protection of conscience legislation, the Health Care Right of Conscience Act (HCRCA). In 2009 an attempt was made to nullify the Act with respect to abortion, contraception and related procedures by introducing HB 2354 (Reproductive Health and Access Act), but the bill died in committee two years later.1 Now it appears that the HRCA may be changed by Senate Bill 1564. Critics say the bill tramples upon physician freedom of conscience,2 while the bill’s supporters, like the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), claim that the bill is “about making sure no one is withholding information from the patient.”3

SB 1564 was actually drafted by the ACLU,3 but it was introduced by Illinois Senator Daniel Biss. He said that the amendments were partly in response to the case of a woman who was miscarrying over several weeks, but who was refused “diagnosis or options” in the hospital where she had sought treatment.4  Senator Bliss was apparently referring to the story of Mindy Swank, who testified before a Senate legislative panel about her experience.  The Illinois Times reported that she suffered “a dangerous, weeks-long miscarriage” because of the refusal of Catholic hospitals to provide abortions.5

Unfortunately, the Illinois Senate Judiciary Committee does not record or transcribe its hearings, and conflicting news reports make it difficult to determine exactly what happened at some critical points in her story.  Moreover, it appears that the Committee did not hear from the hospitals and physicians who were involved with Ms. Swank, so we are left with a one-sided account of what took place.6

Nonetheless, as a first step in considering the particulars of the bill and the controversy it has engendered, it is appropriate to review the evidence offered to support it.  We will begin with Mindy Swank’s testimony, even if some details are lacking, and then examine the experience of Angela Valavanis, a second case put forward by the ACLU to justify SB 1564.7  [Full Text]

An Open Letter to the Illinois Legislature

The state should vote down a bill that would trample on citizen conscience rights

National Review

Robert P. George

To the members of the Illinois Legislature:

I understand that you are considering passing SB 1564, a bill to amend the existing laws of Illinois that protect freedom of conscience. I urge you not to do so, as SB 1564 fatally weakens the conscience rights of Illinois citizens.

SB 1564 would amend existing law to, among other things, add a new section regarding “access to care and information protocols.” This section would require “health care facilities, physicians, and health care personnel” who are opposed for reasons of conscience to performing an abortion to, nevertheless, “refer, transfer, or give information . . . about other health care providers who they reasonably believe may offer . . . the . . . service,” which includes abortion. In so providing, SB 1564 violates elementary notions of conscience protection.. . [Full text]

Opposition Mounting Against “Right of Conscience” Act

Alton Daily News, WBGZ radio

John Gregory

Anti-abortion groups are marshaling opposition to a bill which would amend the state’s Health Care Right of Conscience Act.  The bill to amend the law would require medical providers to provide information and referrals on treatment options they don’t provide based on personal beliefs, like abortion. State Rep. Ron Sandack (R-Downers Grove) labels the bill as activism disguised as legislation.  “This is simply an intrusion on people of faith, people of conviction, and the Right of Conscience (Act), no one’s told me how it’s not working,” Sandack said. [Full text]

 

Morals in medicine

 Senate passes “right of conscience” bill after harrowing testimony

Illinois Times

Patrick Yeagle

Mindy Swank of Chicago grew up in a conservative household – both religiously and politically – so when her pregnancy went wrong, it was a difficult decision to have an abortion.

She and her husband, Adam, were excited to have their second child, she told an Illinois Senate legislative panel at the Capitol in March, but their doctors informed them the child likely wouldn’t survive. Having the child, they were told, could hurt Mindy’s ability to have future children and possibly endanger her life. Instead of receiving the abortion, however, Mindy endured a dangerous, weeks-long miscarriage.

Mindy told her story to the Illinois Senate Judiciary Committee on March 17, testifying about a bill that could have prevented her ordeal. The bill passed the full Senate on April 23 and awaits a vote in the House. . . [Full text]

Illinois Senate approves health-care conscience update

Chicago Business

(AP) — A measure requiring physicians to spell out a patient’s options even if they’re objectionable to the doctor has received Senate approval.

The 34-19 vote sends to the House the plan by Evanston Democratic Sen. Daniel Biss. It would change a 1977 law that allows health care providers to refuse to perform medical procedures they find morally objectionable. . . [Full Text]

 

Bill OK’d by committee would give more information to patients

The State Journal Register

Doug Finke, State Capitol Bureau

A bill designed to ensure patients are given treatment information when their health-care providers invoke the state’s Right of Conscience Act was approved by the Illinois Senate Judiciary Committee Tuesday.

Under Senate Bill 1564, health-care providers would be required to establish written protocols that provide patients with information about the treatment options available and how they can get access to those options. [Full text]