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2/1/2008 - February 2008 SLI Educational Update - Healthcare Rights of Conscience Act and Umbilical Cord Banking Act





To:                  SLI Supporters                                 


Date:               February 2008  


From:              A. Eric Johnston


Re:                  Healthcare Rights of Conscience Act

                        Umbilical Cord Blood Use Act



            The 2008 Alabama Regular Session of the Legislature begins February 5, 2008.  It will continue into May. However, if bills do not begin to move early in the session, they will have little hope of passing later in the session. 


            While some suggest advocates must be more aggressive in their pro-life legislative efforts, we do not believe the timing is right.  Any proposal for a state law prohibiting abortion is certain to meet with defeat and probably no review by the U.S. Supreme Court.  There will be some states who wish to pursue that course, and in due course, we will also.  Possibly such a bill will be filed in Alabama this year.  But, at the same time, we have two bills which are important and which should have a reasonable chance to become law.  SLI has prepared these for the Alabama Pro-Life Coalition, Inc. and Americans United for Life.


            The Healthcare Rights of Conscience Act and the Umbilical Cord Blood Use Act have both been introduced in earlier sessions.  The makeup of the Legislature, particularly the Senate, makes it difficult to pass any pro-life related bill.  These bills should not be opposed, because they do not harm any special interests, but protect or establish some very important rights of conscience and health.


Healthcare Rights of Conscience Act


            Alabama is one of only three states which do not have some law to protect a person's rights of conscience in the provision of healthcare services.  It is the purpose of this bill to protect the rights of all persons and entities to refuse involvement in providing, performing or paying for health services that violate their religious, moral or ethical convictions; and to prohibit all forms of discrimination and coercion against them by reason of such refusal.


            The types of medical procedures which impinge on religious, moral or ethical beliefs include, but are not necessarily limited to, abortion, artificial birth control and insemination, assisted reproduction, human cloning, euthanasia, human embryonic stem cell research, fetal experimentation, physician-assisted suicide, and sterilization. 


            Those who would be protected from discrimination because they do not wish to participate in any of these type services include healthcare providers, such as physicians, nurses, pharmacists, faculty, students, etcetera.  It also includes healthcare institutions such as hospitals, clinics or offices.  Finally, it includes healthcare payers, which would include insurance companies. 


            If an individual or entity is required to do something that offends their religious, moral or ethical beliefs, this bill would provide for a civil action for damages and injunctive relief.  Medical science has produced situations that may be supported by some, but are opposed by others because of sincerely held religious and other beliefs.  We must protect those rights of conscience.


            We believe this proposal is reasonable and necessary.  Opposition is expected from some healthcare groups, such as, The Medical Association State of Alabama, The Alabama Hospital Association, UAB or others.  If you can help with these concerns, please call (205-408-8893) or email us (AEJ@SoutheastLawInstitute.org).


Umbilical Cord Blood Use Act


            The purpose of this bill is to educate pregnant women and others on the potential benefits of umbilical cord blood stem cells and to provide opportunities for the donation or storage of umbilical cord blood when desired by a pregnant woman.  While this is available to women at this time, there is very little knowledge of its possibilities.


            The bill would have healthcare providers advise pregnant women during the last trimester of pregnancy of their options to save or donate umbilical cord blood following the delivery of their child.  The Alabama Department of Public Health would provide publications that explain the collection of umbilical cord blood, medical risks, if any, to mother and child, medical uses, and other important information.


            The bill would require healthcare facilities and providers to permit the pregnant woman to make an umbilical cord blood donation for use by other eligible persons, or save it for family use.  This would not be required if there was any threat to the health of the mother or child or if the healthcare facility or provider objected on religious grounds. 


            There are resources available to women to save this valuable source of stem cells for possible use with their own child, or donate it for the use of others.  Stem cell research suggests there may be almost miraculous cures of diseases like diabetes, arthritis, Crohn's disease, etcetera.  Stem cells located in umbilical cord blood are a good source and may be easily stored.  Facilities already exist for this.

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