Law Allowing Doctors To Deny Services Based On Religion Could Change

Mar 17, 2015

Credit WUIS/Illinois Issues

Illinois law allows doctors to refuse to provide services and medications, like abortion and birth control, if it goes against their religious beliefs, but an effort backed by the ACLU and Planned Parenthood would make sure a doctor still provides patients with information about those options.

Sen. Daniel Biss proposes changing what's called the Right to Conscience Act to ensure patients receive information about all of their options, even if their doctor's religious beliefs mean the physician won't provide those services.

Biss, a Democrat from Evanston, says he believes in doctor's right to freedom of religion, but he says he wants to make sure patients are informed.

"That symmetry, protecting the rights of the providers and the rights of the physicians and also the right and the safety and the well being of the patient, together make a properly balanced and properly designed Right of Conscience Act," he said.

Mindy Swank was pregnant with her second child when complications arose. She was informed the child would not live, but her hospital refused to end the pregnancy despite the possible health risks for Swank. She is advocating for changes to the Right to Conscience Act so women in her position are informed of other hospitals and other options.

Opponents say it diminishes the right to freedom of religion, and some even call it unconstitutional.

Senator William Haine, a Democrat from Alton, voted against the measure in committee.

"They have beliefs and they must be respected. Any bill which we pass which will diminish that, however unintentionally, and I do believe, with you especially, it's not an intent, but it must be a strong, protective wall," he said.

With seven votes in favor and three against, the proposal passed committee and now goes to the full Senate.