Stop Discrimination Against Abortion Providers Act

Summary: The Stop Discrimination Against Abortion Providers Act would prohibit hospitals and other healthcare facilities from discriminating against or punishing healthcare professionals who perform or approve of abortions.

Background Summary

Some health care facilities that object to abortion will penalize health care professionals who support abortion. For example, doctors have been denied hospital admitting privileges simply because they perform abortions in other medical facilities. In some cases, health care professionals have been disciplined or fired because they simply approve of abortion or because they perform abortion services.

Hospitals have disciplined doctors for discussing abortion, even when the continuation of a pregnancy threatened a woman’s life. In Colorado, for example, a hospital sanctioned a physician for discussing the option of abortion with a woman who showed signs of Marfan syndrome, a condition where pregnancy can kill the woman. The doctor was told never to mention abortion again, regardless of the circumstances.

Professional medical associations make it clear that every health care provider has a duty to act in the best interest of the patient and, above all, to do no harm. That means that even when a hospital seeks to refuse a particular medical service, it is the physician’s ethical duty to:

  • Provide the patient with full, accurate and unbiased information so she can make informed decisions about her health care;
  • Provide adequate and timely notice to patients, employers and others who will be affected by a refusal of care; and
  • Provide access to medical services in emergency circumstances.

Federal law offers protection against discrimination for those who provide abortion or support the right to abortion. Yet, many state laws only provide protections for medical professionals who refuse to participate in abortion. Medical professionals who provide information about abortion and abortion services also need protection in state law.


Model Legislation

SECTION 1. SHORT TITLE

This Act shall be called the “Stop Discrimination Against Abortion Providers Act.”

SECTION 2. FINDINGS AND PURPOSE

(A) FINDINGS—The legislature finds that:

1)      Federal law prohibits hospitals from discriminating against medical professionals because they perform or assist in performing abortions, or because of their beliefs or moral convictions about abortions.

2)      Nevertheless, some hospitals still discriminate by denying admitting privileges to doctors or taking employment actions against hospital staff members because they may participate in, or simply approve of, legal abortions or other reproductive health care.

3)      The state must ensure that doctors and other medical professionals are protected from discrimination because of their beliefs about, or willingness to participate in, reproductive health care including abortion.

(B) PURPOSE—This law is enacted to prevent discrimination against medical professionals.

SECTION 3. PROTECTION FROM DISCRIMINATION

After section XXX, the following new section XXX shall be inserted:

(A) DEFINITIONS—In this section:

1)      “Discriminate” means termination, transfer, refusal of staff privileges, admitting privileges, or staff appointments, refusal of board certification, refusal of license, adverse administrative action, demotion or refusal to promote or advance, loss of career specialty, reassignment to a different shift, reduction of wages or benefits, refusal to provide residency training opportunities, or any other penalty, disciplinary or retaliatory action.

2)      “Health care provider” means a physician, physician’s assistant, nurse, nurse’s aide, medical assistant, hospital employee, clinic employee, nursing home employee, pharmacist, pharmacy employee, medical researcher, medical or nursing school faculty, student or employee, counselor, or social worker.

3)      “Reproductive health care” means services and information related to birth control, assisted reproductive technology or infertility treatment, miscarriage, ectopic pregnancy, prenatal care, pregnancy care, abortion, sexually transmitted infections, and sterilization.

4)      “Service” means any phase of patient care, treatment or procedure, including: screening; testing; diagnosis or prognosis; research; instruction; therapy; counseling, referrals, or any other advice or information; prescribing, dispensing or administering any device, drug, or medication; surgery or any other care or treatment.

(B) NO DISCRIMINATION

It shall be unlawful for any person, public institution, private institution, or any board to discriminate against any health care provider or individual involved in the provision of health care in any manner based on his or her participation in a reproductive health care service, or willingness to participate in or approval of a reproductive health care service.

(C) ENFORCEMENT

1)      A civil action for damages or injunctive relief, or both, may be brought for the violation of this section.

2)      Any health care provider injured by any public or private individual, association, agency, entity or corporation by reason of any conduct prohibited by this section may commence a civil action. Upon finding a violation of this section, the aggrieved party shall be entitled to recover threefold the actual damages, including pain and suffering, sustained by such individual, the costs of the action, and reasonable attorney’s fees; but in no case shall recovery be less than five thousand dollars ($5,000) for each violation in addition to costs of the action and reasonable attorney’s fees. These damage remedies shall be cumulative, and not exclusive of other remedies afforded under any other state or federal law.

3)      The court in such civil action may award injunctive relief, including, but not limited to, ordering reinstatement of a health care provider to his or her prior job position.

4)      The [agency charged with enforcing the state’s anti-discrimination law] is empowered to prevent discrimination as set forth in [reference to applicable law].

SECTION 4. REPEAL

Section XXX is hereby repealed. [Place here any provisions of law that are inconsistent with this Act.]

SECTION 5. SEVERABILITY

The provisions of this Act shall be severable, and if any phrase, clause, sentence or provision is declared to be invalid, is preempted by federal law or regulation, or results in noncompliance with federal requirements that are a condition to the allocation of federal funds to the state, those words are inapplicable and the validity of the remainder of this Act shall not be affected.

SECTION 6. EFFECTIVE DATE

This Act shall take effect on XXXX 1, 2016.

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