Protection of Conscience Project
Protection of Conscience Project
Service, not Servitude

Service, not Servitude

Re: Wisconsin Assembly Bill 67

Testimony before Wisconsin Senate Committee
on Health, Children, Families, Aging and Long-Term Care
October 7, 2003

Marianne Linane, RN *

As the current nursing shortage continues to grow and with no end in sight, it would be unwise to drive out any nurse who would feel forced to give up his or her profession rather than to compromise conscience on any one of these issues.

I am Marianne Linane, Executive Director of the National Association of Pro-life Nurses and a resident of Milwaukee, WI. I am here to testify in favor of Assembly Bill 67, legislation which would ensure that health care professionals can refuse to participate in work-related activities which are objectionable to them on religious or moral grounds without fear of reprisal, including loss of employment or denial of promotion for which one is otherwise qualified and entitled.

Our organization, founded to unite and support pro-life nurses, is now 23 years old.

From our very beginning it became apparent that our greatest need was to assist those nurses who were being asked to participate in activities which transgress our moral sensitivities. At the time, this concern was only in the context of abortion. We have since provided nurses with information about existing laws which would protect their right to refuse such participation, established a data base of attorneys and legal organizations who would help defend those rights, and established a legal fund to help with a portion of the financial assistance needed to initiate legal defense if necessary. The most valuable of our offerings has been the moral support of knowing that there are other nurses of the same ethical values and to encourage nurses to resist the pressure to participate in abortion activities.

As abortion becomes increasingly unfavorable as an acceptable practice of good medicine and is now largely performed in free-standing clinics staffed by those who favor its practice, and as laws protecting those who would refuse to participate in such activities are passed, we see less need of such support in the abortion context.

However, there are many other practices now invading the medical profession which are equally offensive to many of us in the profession because of our moral and religious conviction that life begins at conception and is to be respected until natural death. These offensive practices are not restricted to one area or one type of nursing. They pervade every aspect of the profession we are trained to practice. The list of ethical dilemmas continues to grow: in vitro fertilization with its creation of multiple human embryos, treatments utilizing fetal tissue obtained from aborted babies, embryonic and fetal experimentation, certain sterilization practices, looming rationing of medical resources, assisted suicide and euthanasia, and probably, eventually, cloning.

Probably the most rapidly growing practices which are in antithesis of our nurturing profession are the practices of terminal sedation where the goal of the administration of sedatives seeks to end the life of the patient and not to relieve distress, and the practice of withdrawal of nutrition and hydration from non-terminal patients. Certainly the practice of withdrawal of nutrition from non-terminal patients has already had its share of legal challenges and, like abortion, continues to be controversial and objectionable to many of us who will be asked to participate in this practice. Most health care professionals adhere to the belief that our mission is to treat and heal patients the best of our ability, not to engage in actions that deliberately destroy human life, thereby creating an atmosphere in which human life is no longer respected.

The organization recognized as the official spokesperson of American nurses, the American Nurses Association, has recognized the importance of the right of a nurse not to participate in morally unconscionable acts. I quote from their Code of Ethics: "Threats to (a nurse's) integrity may also include an expectation that the nurse will act in a way that is inconsistent with the values or ethics of the profession....Nurses have a duty to remain consistent with both their personal and professional values and to accept compromise only to the degree that it remains an integrity-preserving compromise."

The areas of concern to nurses appear to be very well addressed in the six protections being proposed in AB 67. These provisions would protect pro-life nurses from being forced to choose between our moral sensitivities and our livelihood. Nursing has always been and, because of its service nature, will always be, comprised primarily of individuals of altruistic motivation who will rise to the defense of the vulnerable and defenseless. As recent polling of nurses by a prominent nursing journal reveals, they are overwhelmingly pro-life and would, indeed, find themselves in compromising situations if these protections are not implemented.

As the current nursing shortage continues to grow and with no end in sight, it would be unwise to drive out any nurse who would feel forced to give up his or her profession rather than to compromise conscience on any one of these issues. They must know that they will be protected from having to participate in these objectionable practices.

For all the pro-life nurses of Wisconsin, the National Association of Pro-life Nurses urges you to pass this legislation for protection of our moral and religious beliefs. Thank you.