- Gov. Hutchinson has signed a law that allows medics to refuse treatment because of moral objections.
- It could lead to LGBTQ+ patients being discriminated against, a human rights group told AP.
- Arkansas’s governor is also facing criticism for new legislation on transgender women in sport.
- See more stories on Insider’s business page.
Gov. Asa Hutchinson of Arkansas signed in new legislation on Friday that allows medical professionals to refuse to treat patients because of religious or moral objections, the Associated Press reported.
The new law says that doctors and healthcare institutions can object to participating in non-emergency treatments that violate their conscience, the news agency said.
It will come into effect in the late summer, according to AP.
The legislation is facing fierce opposition from human rights activists who say that LGBTQ+ individuals could be denied treatment.
Critics have said that it could lead to doctors refusing to treat transgender patients or provide grief counseling for same-sex couples, AP said. It could also lead to women being denied prescriptions for birth control, according to the news agency.
“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,” ACLU Arkansas’s executive director Holly Dickinson said in a statement to AP.
Hutchinson is insisting that the legislation will not breach federal discrimination laws.
“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,” the governor said in a statement. “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.”
Hutchinson is also facing backlash for signing a law on Thursday that would ban transgender women and girls from competing in sports consistent with their gender identity.
Alphonso David, the president of the LGBTQ+ advocacy group Human Rights Campaign, criticized the legislation in a statement.
“Governor Hutchinson’s eagerness to sign this discriminatory legislation is an affront not just to the transgender kids it is bound to hurt but to all Arkansans who will be impacted by its consequences,” David wrote.