State Watch

Arkansas governor signs law that lets doctors refuse service based on religious beliefs

Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson (R) signed a bill into law Friday that allows medical doctors to decline to treat patients if their belief systems don’t align with the service being provided.

SB289, The Medical Ethics and Diversity Act, grants doctors the right to refuse treatment based on religious or moral objections. 

The measure, which will go into effect this summer, stipulates that health care workers and institutions can choose not to provide certain treatments to patients only in nonemergency situations.

Hutchinson rejected a similar measure in 2017. A statement released by Hutchinson’s office stated that he signed this new measure because it limited health care providers’ right to deny to certain health care services, not people.

“The bill was changed to ensure that the exercise of the right of conscience is limited to ‘conscience-based objections to a particular health care service,’ ” Hutchinson said in the statement.

“I support this right of conscience so long as emergency care is exempted and conscience objection cannot be used to deny general health service to any class of people,” he said. “Most importantly, the federal laws that prohibit discrimination on the basis of race, sex, gender, and national origin continue to apply to the delivery of health care services.”

LGBT advocacy groups, including the Human Rights Campaign and the American Civil Liberties Union, have blasted the measure, arguing that it allows for unfair discrimination against the community.

Hutchinson’s signing of the bill comes one day after he approved the “Fairness in Women’s Sports Act,” which prohibits transgender women from participating in women’s sports in the state.

Tags Arkansas Asa Hutchinson Asa Hutchinson doctors fairness in women's sports Governor lgbtq+ rights Religion trans rights

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