In this issue of Lansing Update:
Legislation that would mandate faith-based hospitals to dispense emergency contraception without testing for pregnancy, as well as a bill that would prohibit conscience rights in pharmacies passed the House Judiciary Committee this week.
Michigan Catholic Conference is asking Catholics to contact their state representative through the Catholic Legislative Advocacy Network [Link no longer available —Ed.] to urge opposition to House Bill 6049, the bill that would prohibit conscience rights and religious freedom in pharmacies.
MCC testified in opposition to both measures, along with a bill, House Bill 6050, that would prompt the Department of Community Health to distribute information to the public regarding emergency contraception. The package of bills is supported by Planned Parenthood, Michigan NOW, Triangle Foundation, ACLU and MARAL Pro-Choice Michigan. Following the committee hearing the sponsor of House Bill 6048, State Representative Rebekah Warren (D-Ann Arbor), publicly stated she would be interested in working with the Conference on inserting language that would respect the integrity of Catholic hospitals.
Testimony from MCC Vice-President for Public Policy Paul Long referred to the fact that the Catholic health ministry for several hundred years has promoted the public good and serves all who enter its doors, most importantly the poor and vulnerable. Long’s testimony, and that of Michigan Health Ministries of Ascension Health, also stated that Catholic hospitals already provide assistance to women in need. Such practice is consistent with Directive 36 of the Ethical and Religious Directives for Catholic Health Care Services [Link no longer available —Ed.], which states:
“A female who has been raped should be able to defend herself against a potential conception from the sexual assault. If, after appropriate testing, there were no evidence that conception has occurred already, she may be treated with medications that would prevent ovulation, sperm capacitation or fertilization. It is not permissible, however, to initiate or to recommend treatments that have as their purpose or direct effect the removal, destruction or interference with the implantation of a fertilized ovum.”
In an effort to thwart legislation that protects the conscience rights of pharmacies and pharmacists, the committee also passed House Bill 6049, sponsored by State Representative Alma Wheeler-Smith (D-South Lyon). According to the legislation, “a pharmacist shall not refuse to dispense or transfer a prescription based solely on his or her ethical, moral or religious beliefs.”
For several legislation sessions the Michigan Catholic Conference has supported legislation that would protect the conscience rights of all individuals, including that of pharmacists, as more prescription medications become available that fail to promote the dignity of life and respect for women. The legislation also fails to respect and take into consideration the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, which guarantees religious freedom in all aspects of society.