Neb. Committee Hesitant on Refusal Bill, Hears Testimony on Abortion Information Bill

March 5, 2013 — Lawmakers on the Nebraska Senate Judiciary Committee on Friday gave a "skeptical reception" to a bill (LB 564) that would expand protections for health care workers who refuse to participate in medical services they personally oppose, including those related to abortion and contraception, Omaha World-Herald reports.

Antiabortion-rights groups have been pushing for the changes for the last two years, according to the World-Herald. This year's version includes amendments under which health care professionals would have to explain to patients why they are refusing to provide care and give them general information about finding another provider. Providers also would have to give advanced written notice to their employer about services they oppose.

Key Arguments

The bill's supporters argued that it is needed to safeguard the integrity of health care providers. Although they could not cite any cases involving health care providers in Nebraska who had been punished for refusing care, they said such cases have occurred in other states (Stoddard, Omaha World-Herald, 3/2).

Several members of the committee criticized the bill as too broad. Lawmakers raised concern that the measure could expose employers to religious-discrimination lawsuits or allow a group of health care providers to effectively outlaw controversial procedures by collectively refusing to provide them. Other opponents noted that the measure does not address situations where patients could end up without medical care, including cases in which a lack of treatment could cause harm (Schulte, AP/Atlanta Journal-Constitution, 3/1).

Comm. Considers Abortion Information Measure

In addition, the committee heard testimony on a second bill (LB 300) that would require the state to publish information online about fetal development and abortion, including ultrasound videos of developing embryos and fetuses. Abortion providers also would be required to link to the state information from their own websites (Omaha World-Herald, 3/2).