Arkansas women, accustomed now to being slapped around by the Arkansas legislature, which has embarrassed the state nationally with its anti-woman bills, are greeting with deep sighs state Rep. David Meeks' new bill, HB1898, the "Healthcare Freedom of Conscience Act," that would allow doctors and hospitals not to provide the following treatments if they ran counter to their "moral" principles: Artificial birth control; artificial insemination; assisted reproduction (read in-vitro), human embryonic stem-cell research and sterilization.
This bill assumes that there are hospitals or ethical systems that force doctors and nurses to practice medicine they don't want to practice. That there are doctors helping childless women become pregnant only because the doctor police are making them. That Arkansas hospitals require their nurses to sign a pledge that they'll assist in sterilization procedures. That it can protect Catholic institutions from having to provide their employees insurance coverage for birth control.
Or perhaps it assumes this: That there are doctors, or non-Catholic hospitals run by people who think like Meeks, who want to stop, wholesale, offering those services and need his helping hand to do that. Or perhaps it assumes this: That UAMS is so eager to affiliate with St. Vincent that it's willing to stop offering those things that Catholic institutions don't offer anyway and hope this legislation will allow it. That's nonsense.
How would this bill affect UAMS? Not at all, says Dr. Nicholas Lang: UAMS allows employees on the front end to indicate what procedures they will not participate in. They can't wait until the middle of a procedure, Lang said, but they can opt out at hiring. I've got a call in to Baptist Health for comment.
Nor does the bill apparently affect pharmacists, who are not required by the state pharmacy board to fill birth control prescriptions; they may exercise their preference.
So here's what the bill, provided to Meeks by the national Americans United for Life anti-abortion group, really accomplishes: It lets Meeks not get out-woman-hated by his fellows in our esteemed General Assembly. If Rapert and Mayberry et al are going to front legislation to remove a woman's right to choose and give embryos all the powers that people have, well, by golly, he's going to get in on the hate-fest. He's only co-sponsor of the abortion bills. He's leading the charge on this meaningless legislation.
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