Arkansas Governor Signs “Right of Conscience” Medical Law


Arkansas Governor Asa Hutchinson (R) signed legislation Friday that will allow doctors to turn away some patients due to religious or moral objections.

Because it is important: It’s a move that opponents say will allow service providers to discriminate against patients, including LGBTQ people and others, AP writes.

Details: The provision, which will not go into effect until this summer, gives providers “the right not to participate in non-emergency treatment that violates their conscience.” It also claims to prohibit discrimination, according to AP.

  • Refusal laws, often called “conscience” laws, are also considered “dangerous” for women, according to NARAL. These measures “allow a wide range of individuals and institutions, including hospitals, health care providers, pharmacists, employers and insurers, to refuse to provide, pay for, advise or even refer to medical treatment.”
  • The new law is likely to face a challenge in court.

It should be noted: The Trump administration issued a similar rule in May 2019, allowing healthcare workers to refuse to perform operations such as abortion, sterilization or assisted suicide, according to NPR.

  • A federal judge struck down the rule before it took effect, according to CNBC.

What they are saying: “I support this right of conscience as long as emergency care is exempt and conscientious objection cannot be used to deny general health service to any class of people,” Hutchinson said. said in a statement.

  • Human Rights Campaign Chairman Alphonso David said: “Governor Hutchinson is proving to be a cruel opponent of equality by signing this draconian medical denial bill,” according to a statement Friday afternoon.
  • HRC cited a number of scenarios in which a medical worker’s refusal to provide non-emergency treatment could cause serious harm, such as:
    • Pharmacies that refuse to fill prescriptions for contraceptives and antiretrovirals to treat HIV infection.
    • A doctor who refuses to maintain hormonal treatments for a trans patient who needed hospital care for an infection.

The panorama: LGBTQ people already face discrimination in health care and are often likely to skip routine care, according to the Center for American Progress.

  • It comes as part of a series of measures targeting transgender people, many of which passed through the Republican-led state legislature this year.
  • Hutchinson signed a measure Thursday to ban trans women and girls from playing on sports teams that align with their gender identity.

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