Opponents are labeling a new law in Arkansas as a way to legalize discrimination against LGBTQ individuals – but supporters argue it's more about protecting the moral and religious objections of physicians.
The Medical Ethics and Diversity Act (SB289) was signed into law by Governor Asa Hutchinson (R) last week. It aims to provide medical conscience objections to doctors and other health care professionals.
Opponents of the act, including The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) and the Human Rights Campaign, are opposed to the law, saying doctors will refuse to offer services for LGBTQ patients. The ACLU, in fact, tweeted: "Arkansas has become the first state to ban yealth care for trans youth."
Dr. Jeff Barrows of Christian Medical & Dental Associations differs with the opposition.
"It's similar to bills in other states that will provide protections for health care professionals," says Barrows. "This bill is not about refusing to take care of certain people, as some will say; rather it really gets down to more about protecting the rights of health care professionals to refuse to engage in certain procedures."
Barrows tells One News Now that CMDA "completely believes that all health care professionals should provide basic medical care to all individuals, regardless of how they choose to self-identify."
"But this bill provides us protections so that we don't have to provide certain procedures that [go] against our conscience," he continues. "So, we're very excited about the bill."
Governor Hutchinson issued the following statement on the signing of SB289:
"I weighed this bill very carefully, and it should be noted that I opposed the bill in the 2017 legislative session. 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.' 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. 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."
The law is set to take effect later this summer. The Associated Press reports the ACLU hasn't said if it will take any legal action to block the law before then.