bookshelvesshort

Resources for Legislators

Ban FGM

In the U.S., more than 500,000 women and girls have undergone or are at risk of female genital mutilation (FGM), whether in the U.S. or during “vacation cutting” trips to countries of origin. In 2018, a federal judge ruled that a federal ban on FGM was unconstitutional, and that state must regulate the practice themselves.

KY S.B. 72 (enacted in 2020) is a bill that made FGM a felony. It requires proper training and education regarding FGM and requires that a person reports if a child they know, or have reason to know, was victim to FGM. This is a great opportunity for bipartisan legislation that criminalizes an unambiguously harmful, disgusting practice. Religion should never be an excuse to violate neutral, generally applicable laws, and even those who push for religious exemptions to other laws understand that mutilating children’s genitals based on religious belief must be treated as criminal behavior.

Click here to see the sample legislation.

Abortion Safe Harbor  

CT HB 5414 (enacted in Connecticut in 2022) expands eligibility to perform abortion care to include advanced nurse practitioners, nurse midwives, and physician assistants to perform first-trimester aspiration and medication abortions. It also protects individuals from extradition who are accused of seeking or providing reproductive health care that may be criminal in other states. It ensures that no individuals involved in reproductive health care can share information related to that health care unless the patient consents in writing to the disclosure. Further, the bill prohibits state agencies and health care providers from assisting in out-of-state investigations/prosecutions of reproductive health care. Anyone who is sued in another state regarding their involvement in reproductive health services that are legal in Connecticut can recover certain costs they incurred from defending themselves.

Click here for sample legislation.

Death With Dignity

Currently, only eleven jurisdictions allow terminally ill patients to die in the manner they choose, with the assistance of a physician, rather than being forced to endure a long, painful, and dehumanizing end of life experience.

This bill includes many safeguards to address the common concerns about this legislation. Patients seeking this end-of-life care must pass a mental competency screening, there is a 48-hour waiting period before the medication can be taken, and more. Jurisdictions with similar laws since the 1990s have not seen the abuse that opponents always promise such laws will bring.

The only remaining objection to death with dignity or aid-in-dying laws are religiously motivated beliefs that end-of-life care encroaches on God’s jurisdiction of deciding when someone dies. Such beliefs have no place in secular legislatures, which should uniformly pass this legislation.

Click here to view the sample legislation.

Health Care and Freedom of Conscience

Create protections against Catholic hospitals acquiring secular hospitals and eliminating access to care due to dogma is vital, not just for reproductive rights and rights for rape victims, but for individuals who object to extraordinary measures when they are terminally ill or dying.

This bill requires mergers and acquisitions by health care companies to be approved by the state’s Department of Consumer and Business Services and the State Health Authority, or similar agencies. There must be a board to review these mergers and acquisitions, to make sure patients are receiving adequate health care. In particular, Catholic hospitals often refuse to provide certain medical services, and allowing them to acquire other hospitals can leave geographical areas without access to those services, endangering the health and lives of those communities simply because of religious dogma.

Click here to view the sample legislation.

Period Equity

Up to 84 percent of teens have either missed class time or know someone who has missed class time because they lacked access to menstruation hygiene products. Shaming girls for getting their periods is deeply embedded in patriarchal religious traditions.

Bills can be introduced to ensure that menstrual products are available in public restrooms (including schools and prisons) and are tax-free. DC B24-0158 (enacted in 2021) is simple, nonpartisan and offers great benefits, especially to low income constituents. It requires public high schools and universities to stock all women’s and gender neutral restrooms with a dispenser for period products—tampons, sanitary pads, or liners—at no cost to the product user, and for elementary schools to maintain at least one such restroom. These products are instrumental to the general health and welfare of the public, and prevent the spread of germs, reduce the transmission of bloodborne pathogens, and improve the general welfare.

VT S.53 (enacted in 2022) exempts menstrual products from sales tax, helping to correct an underappreciated lingering effect of the religious stigma on women. No one should miss time at class or work simply because they cannot afford these basic sanitary products.

Click here for sample legislation.

Vaccination 

Act to create restrictions on vaccine exemptions to accept medical exemptions only; and

Act to allow competent minors to opt into vaccinations without parental permission. Parents’ unfounded and dangerous skepticism about crucial vaccines should not allow them to jeopardize the lives of their children or their communities.

Even before the pandemic, the drive to exempt children from vaccinations on religious grounds was growing. Boston University reports that although the United States thought it had eliminated measles in the year 2000, more than 981 cases were confirmed in 26 states in 2019. A majority of states allow a religious exemption for school children immunization requirements. FFRF’s position is that only medical exemptions be allowed. Science should be followed so that herd immunity protects children or adults who, for genuine health reasons, cannot be vaccinated.

Click here to view the sample legislation.

Editor’s note: The sample legislation for only medical exemptions is based on Connecticut House Bill 6423 (enacted in 2021), and legislation permitting competent minors to opt in is based on Washington D.C. Bill 23-0171 (enacted in 2021)