Denial of Care bill advances to Senate

The bill would allow doctors to refuse to perform specific health services.

The Missouri House of Representatives passed a bill last month allowing medical professionals to deny care based on religious beliefs .

House Bill 457, also known as the Denial of Care bill, will allow any medical practitioners to refuse to perform or provide health services that violate his or her conscience or beliefs.

Under these measures, health services are defined as abortion, abortion-inducing drugs, assisted reproduction and more. This means doctors could decline providing reproductive services to women in Missouri, including giving information to rape survivors and providing access to emergency contraception.

House Speaker Timothy Jones, R-Eureka, is sponsoring the bill, which has been coined the “Todd Akin Bill” after Akin’s comment during his 2012 campaign about women’s bodies’ ability to combat pregnancy in the case of a "legitimate rape."

Jones was unavailable to comment.

HB457 states no professional would be liable in declining to engage in specific medical processes that violate their conscience. Outlined in the bill, “conscience” would be defined as the professional’s belief in God or a higher supreme being, while a health care institution’s conscience would consist of the religious morals, ethical guidelines and mission statement of the business.

The legislation forbids any board, person or health care institution from discriminating against a practitioner who declined to participate in a medical procedure.

However, the bill does require a medical professional to provide reasonable notice as to why he or she declined to participate.

The bill also outlines the same stipulations to health care institutions. The legislation states that any person or corporation attempting to establish an institution or operate an existing institution cannot be discriminated against through the means of denial or disqualification of licensing, withholding of aid, or withholding of consent to create, expand or merge a health care institution.

HB457 provides a clause that states none of the sections should be interpreted by a medical professional or institution to withhold aid to save a life under their care.

The proposal of the bill has caused controversy statewide. Planned Parenthood affiliates in Missouri condemned the bill and called for action after the bill’s move to the Senate, according to the organization’s emails.

“This bill terrorizes rape victims,” stated a news release from Rep. Stacey Newman, D-St. Louis. “Is this what we’re gonna do?  This is the Todd Akin bill of the session? Come on!”

Planned Parenthood also called for Missourians to contact their senator to vote against HB457.

The bill, which has already passed the House, made its way to the Senate on Thursday. The Judiciary and Civil and Criminal Jurisprudence Committee sponsors Senate Bill 84. If passed, the bill would go into effect Aug. 28.

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