Illinois Medical Bill on Religious Refusals Considered Blow to Conscience Rights

Surgery Credit Fernando Audibert-compressed
Photo Credit: Fernando Audibert

SPRINGFIELD, Ill. — A medical bill in Illinois that was signed into law this week by Republican Gov. Bruce Rauner is raising concern as pro-life groups in the state believe that its referral mandates for those who decline procedures for religious reasons are a blow to conscience rights.

Senate Bill 1564, sponsored by Sen. Daniel Biss (D-Evanston) and Rep. Robyn Gabel (D-Evanston), was introduced as a means to amend the Health Care Right of Conscience Act by requiring health care facilities to establish protocols in the event a staff member refuses involvement in a procedure due to their faith.

Protocols can include transferring the patient to another doctor or providing a referral.

“When a health care facility, physician, or health care personnel is unable to permit, perform, or participate in a health care service that is a diagnostic or treatment option requested by a patient because the health care service is contrary to the conscience of the health care facility, physician, or health care personnel, then the patient shall either be provided the requested health care service by others in the facility or be notified that the health care will not be provided and be referred, transferred, or given information…” the bill reads in part.

The legislation was supported by groups such as the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), which opined that the measure was beneficial to ensure that patients’ requests are fulfilled despite the objections of others.

“Senate Bill 1564 ensures that each patient in Illinois now can be assured that they will have complete information, so that they can make the best medical decision for themselves and their families,” said Lorie Chaiten, director of the ACLU of Illinois Reproductive Rights Project. “These medical decisions, we expect, will be guided by a patient’s individual condition and his or her personal beliefs.”

“Senate Bill 1564 means that when Illinois patients go into an exam room, they do not need to worry that they are being denied medical information based on their health care provider’s religious beliefs,” she said. “In short, this bill protects patients when health care providers exercise religious refusals.”

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But pro-life groups in the state saw the legislation as a threat to pro-life doctors and pregnancy care centers, as it could force medical staff to refer patients for an abortion. They launched telephone and correspondence campaigns to urge Rauner to veto the bill.

“When 2,865 faith-based health care professionals were surveyed, 91 percent of them stated they agreed with the following statement: ‘I would rather stop practicing medicine altogether than to be forced to violate my conscience.’ We can’t afford to drive good medical professionals out of Illinois simply because they decline to participate in abortion,” wrote Dr. Colleen Molloy and Emily Zender of Illinois Right to Life.

The Pro-Life Action League issued a statement on Friday after learning that Rauner had signed the bill into law.

“This is sad and tragic news. It will result in lawsuits filed against the State of Illinois, which is in a dismal financial state and can ill afford to take on legal battles that are unnecessary,” said Vice President Ann Scheidler. “The medical professionals in the state of Illinois deserve to practice their healing art within the freedom of conscience. The pro-life pregnancy centers should be protected from giving exactly the advice that goes against everything they stand for. They will not do it.”

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  • Michael C

    Do any professional medical organizations oppose this legislation?

    Are there any medical professionals (that would be affected) voicing opposition to this legislation?

    • Amos Moses

      Those who are for abortion ……….. just happen to be those ALREADY BORN ………. go figure ……

    • Grace Kim Kwon

      No Christian ethics = No will to rescue every life

  • WorldGoneCrazy

    Abortion is really never about “choice.”

    The child in the womb has no choice.

    Now, if this law holds up, those who work in crisis pregnancy centers might have no choice but to refer for abortions.

    More liberal fascism.

    • Grace Kim Kwon

      Yes. So sad secularism’s murderous corrosion is everywhere, even in the land of America. America was good when it was Christian. People only worked hard honestly to live and let live, not calculating. May Jesus come back soon for the sake of all children.

      • WorldGoneCrazy

        Amen, Sister Grace!

        Thank you for being a shining beacon in a darkening world.

        • Grace Kim Kwon

          Thank you. I’m sorry. American Christians should not be left alone and sacrificed as the only human shield for liberty and justice. Thank you so much for all your Christian charity and rescue works in the world.

    • axelbeingcivil

      Actually, the law does provide for that: All that is required is for the group to state up front that they do not provide pregnancy termination services and that those seeking them should look elsewhere.

      It only requires referrals as a part of delivering the results of a diagnosis. As long as they state beforehand that this isn’t a service they require in a way that provides written consent, they’re in the clear.

      • Jalapeno

        I wasn’t able to find anything about that…where did you find that information?

        • axelbeingcivil

          The bill text itself, linked in the article. Early sections in the bill cover what information must be provided as a part of a diagnosis, but when you get to section 6.1, it details broader details about lack of provision.

          6.1(2) states that, when a provider (of any sort; individuals or a facility) refuses to perform a service due to conscience reasons, they must be either referred to another provider in the facility or be referred or transferred OR given information in accordance with paragraph (3).

          Section 6.1(3) lists that a facility may opt to provide in writing information to the patient that they do not wish to participate in a list of treatments and state other providers who they reasonably believe may offer the service they refuse to provide. They don’t even need a mutual agreement or contact; just a statement that they reasonably believe the other provider offers what they do not.

          In other words, no medical referral or transfer of care is required, nor are they required to inform the patient about it; merely to state “We do not provide this service; if you desire it, go to your local Planned Parenthood clinic”. Seems reasonable to me, y’know? I’d even say it would be fair to strike the “state over providers” section as long as the provider states absolutely up-front what they do not do.

          • Jalapeno

            …Wow, thanks.

            I feel kinda stupid right now, I did a bunch of searching on the bill for information and missed the actual link in the article. I appreciate it.

          • axelbeingcivil

            No problem, me chummer.

  • Martin Smit

    It’s easier to set out to violate the conscience of others if you don’t have a conscience of your own. It also helps to have practice in the violation of conscience.

    • WorldGoneCrazy


  • Jalapeno

    I thought people wanted to give women all the information available at all times?