LITTLE ROCK, Arkansas — An Arkansas House panel on Thursday advanced legislation to allow doctors to refuse to treat someone because of moral or religious objections, a move opponents say would allow discrimination against patients.
The House Public Health, Welfare and Labor Committee endorsed a reworked version of the bill that says health care workers and institutions have the right to not participate in non-emergency treatments that violate their conscience. The panel last month rejected a broader version of the Senate-backed legislation.
Supporters of the bill say it would protect health care workers from being forced to perform something that goes against their conscience. Opponents, however, have said it would allow providers to turn LGBTQ patients away because of a provider’s personal beliefs. Similar measures have stalled in the Legislature in 2017 and 2019.
The measure advanced a day after lawmakers gave initial approval to bills placing new restrictions on transgender youth, despite objections from medical and education groups.
One bill would prohibit transgender women and girls from playing on school sports teams consistent with their gender identity. The other would ban gender-confirming treatment and surgery for minors.