Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Must Read: Rep. Steve O'Ban's Floor Speech on HB 1044

Right not to be Coerced to Take Human Life

Mr. Speaker, this bill is not about one’s views on regulating abortion or a women’s right to choose. This bill is about the value we place on the freedom of conscience. This bill is a test of all of us in this chamber. Do we nurture and celebrate people who follow their conscience? Or, do we burden and undermine conscience? And not just any issue of conscience is at stake.

This bill would force Americans to violate conscience on the most profound moral issue imaginable. This bill would force Americans to assist in taking what they believe to be innocent human life. Since the Quakers in colonial America were jailed for refusing to serve in colonial militias, our nation has affirmed the right of conscience. Their refusal to take life changed colonial laws and in every armed conflict since, Americans have been exempted for conscience sake. Our laws have responded to protect conscience, again and again.
  • Within weeks of Roe v Wade in 1973, every state and the federal gov’t enacted exemptions so doctors would not be forced to take human life.
  • Our state’s physician-assisted suicide laws, exempt physicians from being coerced to take human life. 
  •  Our state corrections employees are excused from participating in state executions.
And yet, not since the Quakers were jailed in colonial America, would a law punish Americans who refuse to take human life, until HB 1044. No other state, no other gov’t has broken with the long tradition of our nation protecting conscience in this way, until HB 1044.

Mr. Speaker, I know many of the members listening to me now who are thinking of voting for this bill, do not intend to force me or other business owners, or churches, synagogues, and mosques, to violate our consciences and take what we believe to be human life. But Mr. Speaker that is precisely what they are about to do. Some offer the excuse that HB 1044 exempts employers by giving them the untenable choice of choosing between ending maternity coverage and paying for abortions. This is a repugnant burden to place on the conscience of Washington employers.
  • We would force them to stop covering a vital medical need of their employees and themselves?
  • We would force upon them the severe recruiting disadvantage of informing prospective employees that their maternity care will not be covered because the employer cannot pay for abortions?
Would we really place such a burden on the conscience of good people who harbor no ill-will but are simply trying to honor their deeply held convictions?

Mr. Speaker, others are under the mistaken belief that the bill protects conscience in Sec. 6, by referencing RCW 48.43.065 or 70.47.160. But in neither the bill analysis or bill report, is there any discussion of these statutes. Think of that, on so crucial an issue as the protection of conscience, the analysis of this bill ignores the effect of these statutes. I litigated these statutes in federal court last year. They do not provide any protection for conscience, whatsoever, as the Gentlemen from the 5th District stated so clearly, the Attorney General agrees there is no protection for the employer that wants to provide maternity coverage.
  • An employer must pay for abortions, if it pays for maternity coverage. 
  • Every church, parish, synagogue, and mosque will be forced to pay for abortions if they pay for maternity coverage. 
  • There is no special exemption for religious organizations.
Several of my clients removed abortion coverage from their health care coverage for reasons of conscience. The law permits this. HB 1044 will end this.

Mr. Speaker, are we really prepared to bind the conscience of thousands of good men and women who own small businesses, houses of worship and other religious organizations?
Some suggest not providing abortion coverage when providing maternity coverage is discrimination.
  • Churches, synagogues and other employers who do not provide abortion coverage for conscience sake are not doing so for a discriminatory purpose; they are trying to follow their conscience about not harming human life.
  • By creating this link between maternity care and abortions, the bill in fact denies women maternity care when their employers drop that coverage for reasons of conscience. Isn’t that a far more onerous discriminatory burden?
Mr. Speaker, fidelity to conscience is an essential aspect of “personal dignity and autonomy.”

Personal dignity is lost when one is forced to violate one’s moral code on so essential a matter as harming human life.

What gov’t can genuinely claim it values freedom, that it cherishes liberty, when it would saddle the conscience of its people on an issue of this moral weight and significance ?

Mr. Speaker, Is it sound public policy to place such a burden on Americans who are merely trying to follow their conscience? Would we not want rather protect conscience and celebrate those who strive to preserve their moral integrity?

I close with a quote from a Supreme Court decision. Mr. Speaker, May I have permission to quote from Casey v. Planned Parenthood, the case upholding Roe v Wade:

At the heart of liberty is the right to define one’s own concept of existence, of meaning,…, and of the mystery of human life. Beliefs about these matters could not define the attributes of personhood were they formed under compulsion of the State."
Mr. Speaker, we must not force our citizens to form a view of human personhood that would do violence to their own. We must continue to permit owners of small businesses, and churches and synagogues, to define their concept of when human life begins. ---We mustn’t coerce them to raise their hand against innocent human life as they see it. Pass this bill and we will make the same grave mistake colonial legislatures made when they jailed the Quakers for standing on conscience and refused to take innocent human life.

1 comment:

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