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Conscience, Contraception, News

Wisconsin Assembly Bill 377: The Latest Assault on Freedom of Conscience

On January 23, 2008, the Wisconsin Assembly passed legislation (AB 377) requiring hospitals to offer so-called “emergency contraception” to sexual assault victims. This mandate will not exempt hospitals that object, on moral, ethical, or religious grounds, to dispensing the abortifacient drug. Governor Jim Doyle is expected to sign the measure.

“It is a sad day for Wisconsin,” remarked Peggy Hammil, state director of Pro-life Wisconsin. “The state Assembly has shamefully ignored the fate of embryonic children by forcing Wisconsin hospitals to dispense a known abortion-causing drug to vulnerable women. In so doing, they have trampled upon the conscience rights of hospitals and hospital workers in blatant disregard of our federal and state constitutions which guarantee freedom of religious expression and liberty of conscience.”

In recent years, Wisconsin’s legislature had passed measures providing broad protection for healthcare rights of conscience, including the right of hospitals and individual providers, to refuse to dispense or counsel on behalf of abortifacients in violation of their consciences. However, on each occasion, Governor Doyle vetoed the measure, leaving hospitals and individual providers vulnerable.

Circumventing the freedom of conscience of hospitals and individual healthcare providers to increase access to abortifacients (and contraceptives) is a key strategic goal of pro-abortion activists who are very concerned about the lack of physicians and hospitals willing to perform abortions. It may be a first and very large step towards requiring individual providers and religiously-affiliated or other hospitals to provide surgical and chemical abortions.

To learn more about existing protection for healthcare rights of conscience, see “A Primer on Protecting Healthcare Rights of Conscience

For more coverage of this measure and the debate in Wisconsin, go to