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Nebraska

Legislative Bill 461 (2011)

Freedom of Conscience Act

Check on the status of this bill at the Nebraska State Legislature

LEGISLATURE OF NEBRASKA
ONE HUNDRED SECOND LEGISLATURE
FIRST SESSION
Introduced by Pirsch, 4.
Read first time January 14, 2011
Committee: Judiciary
A BILL

FOR AN ACT relating to civil rights; to adopt the Freedom of Conscience Act; and to provide severability.


Be it enacted by the people of the State of Nebraska,

Section 1. This act shall be known and may be cited as the Freedom of Conscience Act.

Sec. 2. For purposes of the Freedom of Conscience Act:

(1) Abortion means the use or prescription of any instrument, medicine, drug, or any other substance or device intentionally to terminate the pregnancy of a female known to be pregnant, with an intention other than to increase the probability of a live birth, to preserve the life or health of the child after live birth, or to remove a dead fetus who died as the result of natural causes, accidental trauma, or a criminal assault on the pregnant woman or her unborn child, and which causes the premature termination of the pregnancy. Abortion does not include the prescription of contraceptives;

(2) Health care facility means any public or private organization, corporation, authority, partnership, sole proprietorship, association, agency, network, joint venture, or other entity that is involved in providing health care services, including a hospital, a clinic, a medical center, an ambulatory surgical center, a private physician's office, a pharmacy, a nursing home, a university hospital, a medical school, a nursing school, a medical training facility, an inpatient health care facility, or any other place where health care services are provided;

(3) Human embryo means a human organism from a single cell stage up to eight weeks development that is derived by fertilization, parthenogenesis, cloning, or any other means from one or more human gametes or human diploid cells;

(4) In vitro human embryo means a human embryo, whether cryopreserved or not, living outside of a woman's body;

(5) Participate in means to perform, practice, engage in, assist in, recommend, counsel in favor of, make referrals for, prescribe, dispense, or administer drugs or devices or otherwise promote or encourage; and

(6) Person means any individual, corporation, industry, firm, partnership, association, venture, trust, institution, federal, state or local governmental instrumentality, agency, or body or any other legal entity however organized.

Sec. 3. (1) A health care facility shall not discriminate against an employee or prospective employee by refusing to reasonably accommodate the religious observance or practice of the employee or prospective employee, unless the health care facility can demonstrate that the accommodation would pose an undue hardship on the health care facility in any of the following circumstances:

(a) An abortion. However, this section shall not apply if the pregnant woman suffers from a physical disorder, physical injury, or physical illness which, as certified by a physician, causes the woman to be in imminent danger of death unless an abortion is immediately performed or induced and there are no other competent personnel available to attend to the woman;

(b) An experiment or medical procedure that destroys an in vitro human embryo or uses cells or tissue derived from the destruction of an in vitro human embryo;

(c) An experiment or medical procedure on an in vitro human embryo that is not related to the beneficial treatment of the in vitro human embryo;

(d) An experiment or medical procedure on a developing child in an artificial or natural womb, at any stage of development, that is not related to the beneficial treatment of the developing child;

(e) A procedure, including a transplant procedure, that uses fetal tissue or organs that come from a source other than a stillbirth or miscarriage; or

(f) An act that intentionally causes or assists in causing the death of an individual.

(2) Nothing in this section permits a health care provider or insurer that otherwise provides, performs, or covers an item or procedure to refuse to do so for a person based on a judgment that (a) discounts the value of the person's life because of his or her age or disability or (b) views the person as not meriting treatment because of an innate personal characteristic, other than a characteristic that would reduce the procedure's clinical effectiveness or increase its risks.

Sec. 4. (1) No health care facility is required to admit any patient or to allow the use of the health care facility for the purpose of performing any of the acts specified in section 3 of this act.

(2) A physician, physician's assistant, registered nurse, practical nurse, pharmacist, any employee thereof, or any other person who is an employee of, member of, or associated with the staff of a health care facility in which the performance of an activity specified in section 3 of this act has been authorized who, in writing, refuses or states an intention to refuse to participate in the activity on moral or religious grounds shall not be required to participate in the activity and shall not be disciplined by the respective licensing board or authorized regulatory agency for refusing or stating an intention to refuse to participate in the practice with respect to the activity.

(3) A physician, physician's assistant, registered nurse, practical nurse, pharmacist, any employee thereof, or any other person who is an employee of, member of, or associated with the staff of a health care facility is immune from liability for any damage caused by the refusal of the person to participate in an activity specified in section 3 of this act on moral or religious grounds.

Sec. 5. (1) This state or a state health insurance exchange may not require a religiously affiliated health insurance plan or issuer to cover any of the circumstances specified in section 3 of this act which are contrary to its religious or moral precepts.

(2) Any health insurance plan or health insurance issuer offering coverage within this state shall accommodate the conscientious objection of a purchaser or of an individual or institutional health care provider, when any of the acts specified in section 3 is contrary to their religious or moral precepts.

Sec. 6. (1) No health care facility, school, or employer shall discriminate against any person with regard to admission, hiring or firing, tenure, term, condition, or privilege of employment, student status, or staff status on the ground that the person refuses or states an intention to refuse, whether or not in writing, to participate in an activity specified in section 3 of this act, if the refusal is based on religious or moral precepts.

(2) No person shall be required to:

(a) Participate in an activity specified in section 3 of this act if the individual's participation in the activity is contrary to the person's religious beliefs or moral convictions;

(b) Make facilities available for an individual to participate in an activity specified in section 3 of this act if the person prohibits the activity from taking place in the facilities on the basis of religious beliefs or moral convictions; or

(c) Provide any personnel to participate in an activity specified in section 3 of this act if the activity is contrary to religious beliefs or moral convictions of the personnel.

Sec. 7. (1) A person who is adversely affected by conduct that is in violation of the Freedom of Conscience Act may bring a civil action for equitable relief, including reinstatement or damages, or both reinstatement and damages. An action under this subsection may be commenced against the state and any office, department, agency, authority, institution, association, or other body in state government created or authorized to be created by the Constitution of the State of Nebraska or any law. An action under this subsection shall be commenced within one year after the cause of action accrues or be forever barred.

(2) If judgment is rendered in favor of the plaintiff in any action described in subsection (1) of this section, the court shall also render judgment for reasonable attorney's fees in favor of the plaintiff against the defendant. If judgment is rendered in favor of the defendant and the court finds that the plaintiff's suit was frivolous and brought in bad faith, the court shall also render judgment for reasonable attorney's fees in favor of the defendant against the plaintiff.

Sec. 8. If any section in this act or any part of any section is declared invalid or unconstitutional, the declaration shall not affect the validity or constitutionality of the remaining portions.

 

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