Bill expands conscience exception for Iowa medical providers

DES MOINES — Health care workers, including pharmacists, could refuse to provide any service that violates their ethical, moral or religious beliefs under a bill that’s cleared an Iowa Senate subcommittee.

Tom Chapman is executive director of the Iowa Catholic Conference, which supports the bill. “No medical practitioner should be forced to participate in a procedure or medication to which he or she has an objection of conscience or violate their oath to do no harm,” Chapman said during a subcommittee hearing yesterday.

For more than four decades, Iowa law has said doctors cannot be forced to perform abortions. This bill would let health care professionals refuse to make referrals or provide any surgery, medication or service. Dane Schumann, a lobbyist for the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, said the bill is very broad.

“Say a practitioner is hired by an OB practice…and decides later on that they object to providing C-sections. That can be a religious objection that some people actually do have out there. The bill makes it impossible to accommodate the practice,” he said. “You can’t change them to a different shift. They can’t reduce their hours.”

Connie Ryan, executive director of the Interfaith Alliance of Iowa, said the bill meddles in the lives of patients. “A medical professional, institution or payer should never impose their religious beliefs on the health and life of a person or their family,” Ryan said.

Pastor Brad Cranston of Burlington is founder of Iowa Baptists for Biblical Values, which supports the bill. “I encourage you to ensure that Iowa is a place where every citizen can not only live and worship in freedom, but also work according to the dictates of their own beliefs without fear,” Cranston said in testimony delivered via Zoom.

Doctors and other medical professionals who testified at the hearing said the bill could alter the basic standard of care for Iowans based on what hospital they enter or doctor they see.