|The Connecticut State Capitol|
Dear Members of the Public Health Committee,
My name is Kelsey Hazzard. I am an attorney and an atheist. I am the founder and president of Secular Pro-Life, which advocates for abortion limits on non-religious grounds. I submit this testimony in opposition to S.B. 939, An Act Concerning a Patient’s Right to Know. S.B. 939 is poorly written and will have negative consequences that go far beyond its ostensible purpose of improving access to health care.
As drafted, S.B. 939 defines “religious beliefs” to mean “any set of philosophical, moral, ethical or religious guidelines, decrees, directives or other instructions determining patient care that is not based on legal, peer-reviewed or scientifically accepted standards of health care.” This definition is wildly overbroad.
Under S.B. 939, a physician who declines to perform abortions for ethical reasons will be legally deemed to have a “religious belief” against abortion—even if that physician is an atheist!
A December 2016 poll found that among American adults who do not practice a religion, 39% oppose abortion completely or with limited exceptions for rape, incest, or to save the life of the mother. 25% believe that abortion should be limited to the first three months of pregnancy, and 15% believe that abortion should be limited to the first six months of pregnancy. Only 21% take the position that “abortion should be available to a woman any time she wants one during her entire pregnancy,” which is the law in Connecticut.
S.B. 939 would force atheist and agnostic physicians who decline to perform abortions for ethical reasons to post a conspicuous notice to their patients stating that they will not provide services “contrary to [their] religious beliefs.” It would force them to misrepresent that they have “religious beliefs” when in fact they do not. It would force them to lie, publicly, about their deeply held personal values.
This effect of S.B. 939 would even extend to abortion businesses. Many Connecticut abortion businesses only offer early-term chemical abortions, and not surgical abortions. Unless these abortion businesses can prove that their decision not to offer surgical abortions is “based on legal, peer-reviewed or scientifically accepted standards of health care,” and not a personal philosophical or ethical preference, they too will be forced to post signage declaring their supposed “religious belief” against certain abortions. The only way to avoid this outcome is by unconstitutionally selective enforcement of the law.
The clear effect—and, I would also argue, the insidious intent—of S.B. 939 is to smear all opponents of abortion on demand as religious fanatics. This is an abuse of the legislative power and likely unconstitutional. I urge the Committee to reject S.B. 939.