Pritzker Signs Health Care Right of Conscience Change

Lawndale News Chicago's Bilingual Newspaper - Health

Lawndale News Chicago's Bilingual Newspaper - Health

By: Ashmar Mandou

Governor JB Pritzker signed a new law in Illinois that will create a way to enforce vaccination, testing and other mitigation measures to prevent the spread of COVID-19. The measure, Senate Bill 1169, amends the Illinois Health Care Right of Conscience Act, and states that doctors and health care providers cannot be held liable for refusing to provide services that are contrary to their conscience. It also states that no employer can discriminate against an individual for refusing to participate in or receive any form of health care services contrary to their conscience.

“Masks, vaccines, and testing requirements are life-saving measures that keep our workplaces and communities safe,” said Governor JB Pritzker in a statement to press. “Keeping workplaces safe is a high priority, and I applaud the General Assembly for ensuring that the Health Care Right of Conscience Act is no longer wrongly used against institutions who are putting safety and science first.” The Health Care Right of Conscience Act was originally enacted to allow medical professionals to refuse to receive or participate in healthcare services that are contrary to their personal beliefs, including religious or moral objections to specific services, such as abortion.

The new law, which becomes effective June 1, makes an exception to the Health Care Right of Conscience Act by saying it is not a violation of the act for an employer to impose or enforce any requirements “that involve provision of services by a physician or health care personnel intended to prevent contraction or transmission of COVID-19 or any pathogens that result in COVID-19 or any of its subsequent iterations.”

At the request of the Attorney General, Governor JB Pritzker signed SB 1169 into law, clarifying the legislative intent of the Health Care Right of Conscience Act so that it cannot be abused or misinterpreted to jeopardize workplace safety. During the COVID-19 pandemic, the law has been improperly invoked to evade employers’ requirements for testing, masking, and vaccines. The misuse of the law’s original intent has put customers, staff, and community members at risk by exposing employers to legal retaliation for enacting life-saving public health measures.

“With Governor Pritzker’s signature today, we continue our effort to keep the people of this state as safe as possible,” said House Speaker Emanuel “Chris” Welch (D- Westchester). “Despite deliberate attempts to misinform the public, nothing about this law takes away anyone’s rights to claim religious or medical exemption, which are protected by federal law. While only a small minority of people are skirting COVID-19 requirements, our goal is to make sure workers in high-risk environments are doing what’s needed to fulfill their responsibility to public health and keep everyone alive and healthy.” The law explicitly reiterates federal protections of sincerely held religious objections.

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