LGBTQ people in Arkansas, be careful who you go to for medical assistance. They can now legally refuse to treat you.
According to the Hill, Arkansas Governor Asa Hutchinson signed a new bill into law on Friday, March 26. SB289, The Medical Ethics and Diversity Act, is the latest religious freedom bill passed into law. The act grants doctors the right to refuse treatment based on religious or moral opposition. As you can imagine, this will largely affect LGBTQ people. And, unfortunately, LGBTQ People are already a group of Americans who face trouble accessing health care.
That said, Hutchinson defended signing the legislation with the argument that it limits the type of rejections health care providers can get away with. The law limits health care providers’ refusal rights to certain health care services in nonemergency situations and not certain 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.”
Arkansas Rep. Brandt Smith (R), who sponsored S.B. 289 in the House, argues that the bill “provides a solution and a remedy to protect the rights of medical workers.”
LGBTQ Rights groups, however, see this as an attempt to ostracise and attack LGBTQ citizens. Many groups have thus spoken out in protest to the newly signed law.
“There is no sugarcoating this: this bill is another brazen attempt to make it easier to discriminate against people and deny Arkansans the health care services they need,” ACLU of Arkansas Executive Director Holly Dickson said in a statement. She then ededthat the ACLU will “be watching and working to ensure no Arkansan is denied life-saving health services because of who they are.” The ACLU did not, however, say whether it was planning any legal action against the law.