Enact that law

American Atheists announced a new campaign today – a desperately needed one.

American Atheists today announced a campaign to enact legislation that would require health care providers to inform patients, insurance companies, and government agencies about any medical procedures and services the provider chooses not to perform because of the provider’s religious beliefs.

Wouldn’t you think they already had to do that? But they don’t.

“Patients must be able to make fully informed decisions about their health care,” said Amanda Knief, National Legal and Public Policy Director for American Atheists, and author of the bill. “This legislation would help patients get the information they need to navigate the increasingly complicated—and increasingly religious—health care marketplace.”

I’ve blogged about this issue a lot, especially in light of the Below the Radar report by the National Women’s Law Center in 2011. It’s about the way Catholic hospitals – just like the ones in Ireland! – deny even lifesaving abortions, and don’t inform their patients that that’s what they’re doing.

Back to the AA press release:

There are no state or federal laws or regulations that require health care providers to inform patients of services or treatments a provider will not provide because of the provider’s religious beliefs. Religious hospitals account for more than 17 percent of all hospital beds in the United States, and religiously based hospitals, physicians, and other health care entities treat more than 1 in 6 Americans each year.

“This is about disclosure, not about forcing providers to do anything they have a religious objection to. If a religiously affiliated hospital or health care provider has some objection to providing birth control, access to cancer therapies that could result in sterilization, mental health services, or blood transfusions, they can continue to opt out of providing those services. What they can’t do is pull a bait and switch on patients and potential patients,” added Knief.

I blanched at the words “or blood transfusions.” What? They can refuse blood transfusions?

They can refuse anything, Amanda told me; there’s no law requiring providers to provide all treatments.

Well that needs to change. The first step will have to be informing the public, and this bill looks like a good first step.

The proposed legislation would require health care providers to simply provide a list of services they will not perform for religious reason to patients, potential patients, health insurers, and state and federal grant or subsidy programs. The health care providers and insurance issuers would then be required to make that information available online for potential patients.

American Atheists will work with its 170+ local affiliates and coalition partners to build support for this legislation in both Congress and the 50 states.

I’m in! Spread the word.

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