The Alabama House of Representatives passed a bill Tuesday that would allow health-care providers to refuse to perform specific reproductive health services that they say violate their conscience.
The bill, sponsored by state Rep. Becky Nordgren (R-DeKalb), passed 71-26 after opponents of the bill charged that it was too vague, sets dangerous precedents, or is designed to restrict abortion. It will now move to the state senate.
The bill only protects conscientious objections to abortion, human cloning, human embryonic stem cell research, and sterilization.
“I don’t think this is an issue,” state Rep. Patricia Todd (D-Birmingham), told the Anniston Star. “I don’t think there’s any physician that’s been forced to do anything they don’t want to do.”
Federal laws already allow many health-care workers and institutions to refuse to provide abortion or sterilization treatments.
The bill states that workers who want to refuse those specific services must file a written notice with their employer, and that workers at abortion clinics are not included in the exemptions.
Health-care workers also must administer care regardless of conscience in a life-threatening situation when no other providers are available.
Elizabeth Nash, state issues manager at the Guttmacher Institute, told RH Reality Check in an email that the bill is “quite broad.”
“It is distressing to see that the bill does not contain protections for patients and can seriously compromise access to services,” Nash said, noting that the bill does not require the refusing provider to give the patient a referral.