Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson signed a bill Friday protecting the right of medical practitioners to refuse to perform medical activities that would violate their religious or moral objections.
Hutchinson enacted SB289, The Medical Ethics and Diversity Act, which allows health care professionals to deny any non-emergency services to patients according to their conscience. In other words, doctors, nurses, and other medical professionals would not be forced to be involved in procedures like abortion-on-demand or transgender surgeries if they object to them.
More broadly, it also safeguards health care institutions from “discrimination, punishment, or retaliation as a result of any instance of conscientious medical objection.”
The governor issued the following statement on Friday after signing the new legislation.
“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.”
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This measure comes just one day after the governor signed a law banning transgender individuals who identify as female from competing in women and girls school sports teams, making the state the second to approve such a restriction so far this year.
Hutchinson said he examined the issue before signing SB354 into law.
“Today, I have signed into law SB354 called the ‘Fairness in Women’s Sports Act’. I have studied the law and heard from hundreds of constituents on this issue. I signed the law as a fan of women’s sports from basketball to soccer and including many others in which women compete successfully,” the Republican governor said in a statement.
“This law simply says that female athletes should not have to compete in a sport against a student of the male sex when the sport is designed for women’s competition. As I have stated previously, I agree with the intention of this law. This will help promote and maintain fairness in women’s sporting events,” Hutchinson added.
Although LGBTQ activists say the passage of these laws is discrimination, Christians and other people of faith disagree, insisting that they must be free to live out their beliefs.
Meanwhile, the new Democratic majority in Washington is advancing the so-called “Equality Act” to create new protections for LGBTQ people, but critics say it has no religious freedom protections so it would actually eliminate the First Amendment rights of people who hold biblical beliefs on sexuality.
Congressional Democrats are also considering the “Do No Harm Act”, proposed last year by Vice President Kamala Harris when she was serving in the Senate.
Supporters say it targets the “Religious Freedom Restoration Act” to keep it from being used to challenge LGBTQ protections, pro-abortion policies, and birth control access.
Religious freedom advocates maintain that despite its name, the “Do No Harm Act” rips the heart out of the RFRA law which was designed to give Christians and others legal options when the government tramples on their rights.