One of the final bills introduced in the Nebraska Legislature would allow doctors and other medical providers to deny non-emergency health care to patients if they morally disagreed with it.
State Sen. Dave Murman of Glenvil introduced the bill (LB810) Wednesday, as one of the final bills and constitutional amendments introduced this session. The total for the session was 812 bills and 20 constitutional amendments, the most introduced since 2001.
LB810, dubbed the "Medical Ethics and Diversity Act," would permit medical practitioners, like doctors and nurses, and health care institutions like hospitals to deny performing elective medical treatment that violates their "right of conscience," which refers to religious, ethical or moral beliefs. The bill also allows health insurance providers to deny coverage of non-emergency care under the same principles.
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Health care institutions and health insurance providers would have to disclose what treatment they would not cover ahead of time, Murman said. Emergency and life-saving treatment would also not be affected.
Murman introduced a similar bill last year, and said this time, he may prioritize the legislation to give it a better chance of passing. He said he is concerned that conservative and Christian medical students are hesitating to enter the medical field out of concerns that they will be asked to participate in treatments that violate their religious beliefs, and that is contributing to the ongoing nationwide nursing shortage.
"The swift pace of scientific advancement and the expansion of medical capabilities, along with the mistaken notion that medical practitioners, health care institutions, and health care payers are mere public utilities, promise only to make the current crisis worse," the bill reads.
Murman said there were three procedures he had in mind while drafting the bill: abortions, gender-affirming treatment for transgender patients and euthanasia.
Restrictions on abortions and transgender medical care have been introduced in other bills this session by Sens. Joni Albrecht and Kathleen Kauth, who both co-sponsored LB810. Though Murman also co-sponsored each of their bills as well, he said his bill was not meant to be a companion piece to either.
The bill includes a provision specifically on abortions, stating that medical practitioners would be allowed to participate in an abortion only if they first consent to participating in writing. Under the bill, pharmacists would also have the ability to deny contraception to patients, Murman confirmed.
Murman said he wasn't concerned the bill would restrict health care for some Nebraskans. In fact, he said the bill aims to improve health care, as patients would have the option to seek different medical options from providers that want to provide the treatment they're seeking.
Sen. Megan Hunt of Omaha, who opposed Albrecht's and Kauth's bills, said LB810 was a civil rights violation. She described the bill as "unserious" and said it was insulting to Nebraskans and the Legislature itself, as it doesn't address issues that actually impact their constituents.
"It's a waste of everybody's time," Hunt said.
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