Law protects health workers refusing to perform care that runs against personal beliefs

Alabama State House

Healthcare providers could refuse to perform services that run against their beliefs under legislation considered in the House Committee on Health on Wednesday.

Rep. Arnold Mooney is sponsoring House Bill 491 also known as the Healthcare Rights of Conscience Act.

The bill gives providers the right to refuse to perform or participate in health care services that violate their moral or religious beliefs. Further, providers would be immune from any civil, criminal, or administrative liability for refusing to participate in services that go against their conscience.

During Wednesday’s public hearing, Rep. Mooney said that in emergency situations, health care providers would be required to provide medical care until another worker is able to step in. Workers would be required to given their employer written notice of their objections at least 24 hours before the procedure.

“This bill allows people to get the services they choose to have from providers who choose to provide it,” said Rep. Mooney.

Several advocates spoke in favor of the bill, including one man who said it would treat “health care workers as human beings, not automatons.”

Concerns over the bill included its potential to block a patient’s ability to make an informed decision, since practitioners could refuse to offer certain options based on their personal beliefs rather than on medical evidence or potential for health risk.

Rep. Laura Hall suggested an amendment that would require health offices to post information clearly stating that that medical staff could refuse certain services. She compared the requirement to the Alabama law concerning placing signs outside of businesses where guns are not allowed.

Rep. Mooney signaled that he would be unwilling to consider amending the bill.

The committee declined to vote on Wednesday.