JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. — The Missouri House of Representatives gave first-round approval to a measure that would allow medical personnel to decline participation in activities that violate their individual conscience. House Bill 1430, sponsored by Speaker Tim Jones,R-Eureka, aims to allow doctors, nurses, and other medical personnel to decline engaging in specific medical practices like abortions if the individual contends the practice violates their conscience.
The bill also provides that employees that choose to opt out of certain procedures cannot be punished at work or through legal action.
The bill had overwhelming support from the Republican-controlled chamber, and was given preliminary approval by a vote of 116-38. Legislation similar to HB1430 has been filed by Jones for several years, and this year’s bill contains provisions requiring workers to notify their employers ahead of time what services they will decline to provide.
“Employers shouldn’t be able to force employees to do things they have a moral objection to,” Jones said during debate. “It’s not about limiting access to medical practices, it’s about limiting an employers ability to coerce an employee into doing something that violates their conscience.”
Republicans and Democrats supporting the bill argued the bill protects individual religious liberty and prevents employees from being coerced into certain procedures. Those opposed, including most female members of the Democratic Party, said the bill could unintentionally harm women by making information and even treatment harder to access.
The bill’s language does not include emergency medical procedures, and specifies that medical professionals may not refuse to share vital medical information with the patient about their condition and treatment options. The bill’s language is also drawn narrowly to apply almost exclusively to women’s health issues like abortions, contraception, and fertility treatments.
“What if someone changes their mind at the last minute,” St. Louis Democrat Stacey Newman said. “We need to be clear about what this bill aims to do. Let’s call it for what it is, this body trying to put themselves into your doctor’s offices. More specifically, this body putting themselves in our gynecological offices.”
Democrats that voted in favor of the bill:
Rep. Ira Anders
Rep. Linda Black
Rep. Pat Conway
Rep. Keith English
Rep. Ben Harris
Rep. Michele Kratky
Rep. John Mayfield
Rep. T.J. McKenna
Rep. Jeff Roorda
Rep. Ed Schieffer
Collin Reischman was the Managing Editor for The Missouri Times, and a graduate of Webster University with a Bachelor of Arts in Journalism.