Arkansas governor signs bill allowing doctors to refuse LGBTQ patients

The bill will come into effect this summer.


Words: Jamie Tabberer; picture: arkansas/gov

Arkansas governor Asa Hutchinson has signed a piece of legislation that will allow doctors and medical professionals to refuse LGBTQs on religious, ethical or moral grounds.

Republican Hutchinson signed the Medical Ethics and Diversity Act (also known as SB 289) on 26 March.

The bill will come into effect by summer 2021.

"I support this right of conscience"

In a statement Hutchinson said: “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.”

American Civil Liberties Union executive director Holly Dickson commented: “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."

Commenting last week before the bill was signed, Alphonso David, Human Rights Campaign President said: "No one should be denied necessary medical care. SB 289 prioritises individual providers’ beliefs ahead of patient health and wellbeing. The Arkansas legislature understood this when they rejected a similar bill four years ago and they would be wise to do the same again this session.

"In the midst of a devastating and ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, we should be expanding access to health care and making it more affordable, not advancing bills that make it harder for LGBTQ Arkansans to receive the care they need. We strongly urge Governor Asa Hutchinson to reject this bill and protect access to care for all Arkansans."

Last week Hutchinson also signed a law banning trans women and girls in Arkansas from competing in school sports teams in line with their gender identity.