One of the "most extreme and deadly anti-LGBTQ healthcare bills" seen in quite some time has been passed by the Senate and now headed to the governor's desk.
The "Medical Ethics and Diversity Act," Senate Bill 289, if passed, will medical workers the right to refuse healthcare to someone because of "religious, moral or ethical" beliefs. Many believe that LGBTQ people could face denial from life-saving services from doctors, nurses, or EMTs.
Arkansas Rep. Brandt Smith (R), one of the co-sponsors of the proposal in the statehouse, states S.B. 289 will provide a solution and a remedy to protect medical workers' rights. He deems it a necessity so workers can object from doing specific surgical procedures. Similar laws that exist in Mississippi and Illinois have yet to be challenged by courts.
The bill goes further, giving employers who provide health care as part of their employees' compensation permission to ask that employees be denied specific medical procedures, so long as they claim that their "conscience" urges them.
Further, no one can take action against a health care provider refusing to provide care because of their conscience up to and including bringing a lawsuit.
Advocates and activists are concerned and are urging Governor Hutchinson to veto the bill.
President of the Human Rights Campaign Alphonso David said in a statement, "SB 289 prioritizes 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." adding,
"make it harder for LGBTQ Arkansans to receive the care they need."