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Conscience vs Care? Bill protecting religious beliefs of health care providers before lawmakers

Steve Carmody/Michigan Radio

A state Senate committee took testimony Thursday on a bill that would allow doctors, nurses and other health care providers to opt out of providing medical care if they feel it violates their personal or religious beliefs.

The legislation could affect patients seeking a variety of treatments, including approval for medical marijuana or a prescription for the ‘morning after’ pill.

Tim Schultz is the legislative policy director of the group, American Religious Freedom. He says the legislation respects an individual’s ‘conscience’.

“To not be coerced to do something that violates your most sacred beliefs is something we have a long tradition,” Schultz told the state senate Health Policy committee.

But many medical and women’s groups oppose the bill, complaining it's too broad and vague.

“We have to have balance in this system,” says State Senator Rebekah Warren (D-Ann Arbor) opposes the bill, “You have to balance an individual right of conscience with the patient’s and the public’s right to access care.”

A similar bill stalled in the legislature last year.   It passed in the state Senate, but died in the state House as the legislative session closed.  

Steve Carmody has been a reporter for Michigan Public since 2005. Steve previously worked at public radio and television stations in Florida, Oklahoma and Kentucky, and also has extensive experience in commercial broadcasting.
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