Oppose: LB564 – Adopt the Healthcare Freedom of Conscience Act

The following is tesitmony that was given by the Nebraska Secular Associates prior to the formation of the Secular Coalition for Nebraska.

March 1, 2013

Testimony on LB564 by Mike Lewis, Chair, Nebraska Secular Advocate

Good afternoon, senators. My name is Mike Lewis, I live in Lincoln in Senator Coash’s district, I’m originally from Furnas County in Senator Christensen’s district, and I’m here today as the chairman of a new statewide grassroots group called the Nebraska Secular Advocates. We represent atheists, agnostics, and other nonreligious Nebraskans, and we also welcome the participation of religious Nebraskans who share our commitment to the separation of church and state.

We are strongly opposed to LB564, including as amended by AM453. This bill would create an expansive right of refusal for health care providers and facilities that would unreasonably interfere with patients’ rights to obtain legal products, procedures, and treatments. Health care workers shouldn’t be allowed to impose their religion on patients in such a sweeping way.

We support everyone’s right to freely practice, and behave in accordance with, their religion, including health care providers. We also recognize that there has long been a health care right of refusal in Nebraska pertaining to abortion. But religious freedom, or more broadly, freedom of conscience, is not absolute. Courts have long upheld certain restrictions on such freedoms, especially when the life, health, or well-being of other people is at stake. Under this bill, religious ideas about the immorality of contraception, sterilization, and destruction of blastocysts would trump reasonable and often medically necessary health care, family planning, and embryonic stem cell research.

Ironically, the bill itself acknowledges that freedom of conscience is not absolute. The bill stipulates that health care providers must follow statutory restrictions pertaining to abortion and end-of-life care, even if the provider believes those restrictions are unjust.

We urge the committee to kill this bill. Thank you.

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