Bill would allow health care workers to opt out of cases on moral grounds
A bill introduced in the Montana Legislature would allow employees for health care facilities and insurance companies to abstain from participating in cases they morally object to. Opponents worry it will lead to discrimination.
Republican Rep. Amy Regier of Kalispell says employees and payers in health care settings should be able to refrain from assisting or performing procedures they have moral, religious or ethical objections to.
“The freedom to live and work consistent with one’s conscience is critical,” Regier said.
Regier, a registered nurse, says that includes, but is not limited to, physician assisted suicide, dispensing medical marijuana or opioids, abortion services or procedures that result in permanent sterilization, like gender-affirming care for transgender patients. She pointed to five other states that have adopted similar laws when she presented House Bill 303 in committee.
Shaun Gillis, an OB/GYN in Bozeman, was one of a handful of individual medical professionals who spoke in support. She said she’s declined to provide abortion services in her 20 years in practice.
“I would like to continue doing so,” Gillis said.
The Montana Primary Care Association, Montana Nurses Association, Montana Hospital Association, Montana Medical Association, other health care experts and transgender Montanans spoke in opposition, saying they worry the bill would allow providers to withhold necessary care from patients.
Nathan Allen, an emergency physician for Billings Clinic and one of three board certified health care ethics consultants in the state, told lawmakers that protections for conscientious objection already exist. He said codifying them without more rules is irresponsible, especially where options for care are limited.
“This will disproportionately impact the most rural Montanans,” Allen said. “Patient protections are absent from HB 303.”
The House Judiciary Committee has not yet taken action on the bill.