Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson on Friday signed into law a measure 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 new law, which will take effect later this summer, says health care workers and institutions have the right to not participate in non-emergency treatments that violate their conscience.
Opponents of the law, including the Human Rights Campaign and the American Civil Liberties Union, have warned it will allow doctors to refuse to offer a host of services for LGBTQ patients.
The Arkansas Chamber of Commerce also opposed the measure, saying it sends the wrong message about the state.
“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,” Hutchinson said in a statement released by his office. “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.”
“Opponents have said types of health care that could be cut off include maintaining hormone treatments for transgender patients needing in-patient care for an infection, or grief counseling for a same-sex couple,” NPR reports. “They’ve also said it could also be used to refuse to fill prescriptions for birth control, or by physicians assistants to override patient directives on end of life care.”
“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 of Arkansas Executive Director Holly Dickson said in a statement.
The Human Rights Campaign announced Friday that it would air a television ad in Arkansas during the Arkansas-Oral Roberts game in the NCAA Tournament on Saturday night denouncing measures such as the transgender athlete restrictions in Arkansas and other states.
“Trans kids are kids. They don’t deserve this cruelty,” the 30-second spot says.