Hutchinson Should Sign Arkansas Medical-Conscience Bill

    Gov. Asa Hutchinson (R., Ark.) chats after a news conference in Havana, Cuba, September 28, 2015. (Alexandre Meneghini/Reuters)

    The Arkansas Legislature has passed a bill to protect the medical conscience of professionals and medical institutions in the state.

    The usual suspects are screaming the usual baloney, criticizing medical conscience protections as authorizing discrimination against LGBT people or women. But the bill does not target any group or category of people. It permits medical professionals and institutions from being forced to perform services with which they disagree based upon religion, morality, philosophy, etc. From S.B. 289:

    (a) A medical practitioner, healthcare institution, or healthcare payer: (1) Has the right not to participate in a healthcare service that violates his, her, or its conscience; (2) Is not required to participate in a healthcare service that violates his, her, or its conscience . . .

    (b) A medical practitioner, healthcare institution, or healthcare payer that holds himself, herself, or itself out to the public as religious, states in its governing documents that it has a religious purpose or mission, and has internal operating policies or procedures that implement its religious beliefs has the right to make employment, staffing, contracting, and admitting privilege decisions consistent with his, her, or its religious beliefs.

    This proposal is entirely defensive in nature, and excludes emergency care from its provisions. And rather than being intended to open the door to discrimination, it seeks to prevent it.

    Think about the supporters who might believe that such a law is necessary. The secularists are attempting to kill comity in health care. We have seen Catholic hospitals sued for refusing transgender hysterectomies — which would sterilize the patient and remove a healthy organ, against Catholic moral teaching. We have seen efforts in bioethics to force medical professionals to participate in abortion and assisted suicide — even if it’s against their religious beliefs. We have seen advocacy of requiring doctors to participate in transgender transitions of children.

    In short, there is a concerted effort underway to compel the entire medical sector to adopt a utilitarian secular ethical outlook that would either force pro-lifers, orthodox Catholics, etc. to violate their deepest held moral beliefs as the cost of medical licensure, or compel them — as a matter of personal conscience — to get out of medicine.

    I am told that Governor Asa Hutchinson is under intense pressure to veto this bill. He should disregard the manufactured hysteria. The bill is necessary to protect professionals’ right to practice medicine under traditional Hippocratic ideals and is consistent with institutions’ founding religious precepts.


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