Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson on Friday signed into law legislation allowing doctors to refuse to treat someone because of religious or moral objections, a move opponents have said will give providers broad powers to turn away LGBTQ patients and others.
The measure says health care workers and institutions have the right to not participate in non-emergency treatments that violate their conscience. The new law won’t take effect until late this summer.
Opponents of the law, including the Human Rights Campaign and the American Civil Liberties Union, have said it will allow doctors to refuse to offer a host of services for LGBTQ patients. The state Chamber of Commerce also opposed the measure, saying it sends the wrong message about the state.
Among the concerns opponents have includes LGBTQ people being denied medical care like cutting off hormone treatments for transgender patients or grief counseling for a same-sex couple.
And it’s not just LGBTQ people who could be affected. Healthcare professionals could refuse to fill birth control prescriptions, or physicians could choose to ignore ‘end of life’ directives.
Meanwhile, a hate crime bill that would impose tougher penalties from crimes targeting certain people with certain characteristics like sexual orientation or gender identity has stalled in the Arkansas legislature due to objections by conservative lawmakers.