Walter Pierce

PFLAG to rally on Capitol steps against HB517

by Walter Pierce

About 15 Acadiana members of the group Parents, Family & Friends of Lesbians and Gays are joining fellow PFLAG members from New Orleans and Baton Rouge to lobby state lawmakers today at the Capitol to vote against House Bill 517. According to language in HB517, the bill would protect people “from liability, discrimination, and employment action for refusing to provide certain health care services.”

The bill is widely seen as an attempt to shield pharmacists from liability for refusing on moral/religious grounds to dispense Plan B — the so-called “morning after pill” — a high-dose contraceptive that can prevent a pregnancy if taken within hours after sex. Many pro-life advocates consider the pill to be a form of abortion and the refusal by pharmacists to provide the drug has prompted lawsuits in other states.

But PFLAG and other groups say the bill is written so vaguely, it could shield health care providers from liability for refusing a wide range of services. “The bill is written for the morning after pill it looks like,” says Trey Schmaltz, a UL student and media director for PFLAG-Acadiana, “but they’re worried that it’s going to spiral into people not helping for AIDS treatment.”

Indeed, opponents of the bill paint some frightening scenarios of the bill applied to practical situations: a life guard refusing to rescue a gay or lesbian swimmer, for example.

In a Facebook invitation for today’s lobbying effort, PFLAG asks participants travelling to Baton Rouge to dress “as if you were going to a job interview.” HB517 is scheduled for floor debate today.