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Conscience Clause Passes Assembly Committee

By: Zac Schultz
By: Zac Schultz

Windsor: Dr. Cody Nikolai just graduated from the University of Wisconsin Medical School. There was only one section that he didn't enjoy.

"It was the one with the reproductive endocrinology. They dealt with human embryos after they were fertilized."

The 32-year-old Cody says his seven kids are living proof of his pro-life beliefs, and he refused to do any medical work that could lead to the destruction of life or an embryo.

Cody was prepared to see his grades take a hit for his beliefs. Luckily for Cody, the UW let him opt out of certain activities without penalty. "They were all very understanding."

While Cody got by on the good graces of his professors, Assembly Republicans are supporting the Conscience Clause to protect future students.

The Conscience Clause would prevent employers from punishing health care workers or med students for refusing to perform procedures like abortions, sterilizations, euthanasia, or handling fetal tissue.

"We do not ban any activity. We simply protect the health care professional," says Rep. Jean Hundertmark (R-Clintonville).

Current law only provides protections regarding abortion and sterilization. Rep. Hundertmark says this bill clarifies and expands those protections.

"There's a real fine line between patient rights and health care worker rights and we're trying to find a balance."

Planned Parenthood spokesperson Chris Taylor calls the Conscience Clause the patient abandonment bill.

"This again violates the code of ethics and harms patients. It places the health care needs of a patient below the personal beliefs of a health care provider and we just think that is wrong."

Cody says while he was ok, some other younger med students were afraid of repercussions.

"I felt the UW was very understanding, but staff changes and I think we need something that's going to guarantee over time that students are going to be protected and allow them to practice their conscience."

Cody is now on his way to a surgical residency in Pennsylvania, where he hopes to continue to practice his faith and medicine.

The Conscience Clause now goes to the Assembly for approval. Last year Governor Doyle vetoed a similar bill.


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