Arkansas rejects bill that would have allowed hospitals to discriminate

An Arkansas House panel on Thursday rejected a bill that would have allowed health care workers and hospitals to refuse to treat someone because of religious objections, a proposal that faced opposition from the state’s Republican governor, its top doctor and LGBT rights supporters.

The proposal, which failed before the House Public Health, Welfare and Labor Committee, would have protected private health care professionals, facilities and insurers for not providing or covering non-emergency treatment that violates their conscience. The lawmaker behind the measure said the move was needed to protect the religious freedom of people in the health care industry.

“We don’t want someone losing their job or being unduly criticized for exercising their right to conscience,” Republican Rep. Brandt Smith told the committee before the vote.

The proposal failed two years after the state Legislature reworked a religious objections law at Republican Gov. Asa Hutchinson’s urging after it faced widespread criticism that it was anti-gay. It also comes as lawmakers are taking up several other bills lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender rights groups oppose, including a “bathroom bill” that would restrict which bathrooms people can use in government buildings.

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