Bill would remove ‘conscience’ as basis for refusing vaccine

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Illinois law has for more than four decades protected those who oppose providing or receiving certain medical treatment because of their religious beliefs

SPRINGFIELD, Ill. — Illinois law has for more than four decades protected those who oppose providing or receiving medical treatment because of their religious beliefs. Now Democrats want an exception to allow repercussions for those who refuse vaccinations in the battle against COVID-19.

“The Health Care Right of Conscience Act was never intended to cover a pandemic where we’re trying to keep people alive,” Gov. J.B. Pritzker, a Democrat, said after a news conference in Springfield Wednesday.

The measure won House approval 64-52 late Wednesday. It now moves to the Senate. Thursday is the final day of the Legislature’s fall session.

The law states that Illinois will “ respect and protect the right of conscience of all persons who refuse to obtain, receive or accept” medical care as well as those providing it. It prohibits repercussions against anyone for “refusing to act contrary to their conscience.”

Rep. Robyn Gabel, an Evanston Democrat, calls her proposed COVID-19 carve-out a “clarification.” Proponents say it doesn’t require vaccination, just bars right of conscience as a reason for refusal.

Republicans challenged Gabel in debate during committee action this week.

“That doesn’t affect all these other people around you,” Gabel replied. “That’s not a communicable disease. We are doing this to address a communicable disease that has worldwide impact.”

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Follow Political Writer John O’Connor at https://twitter.com/apoconnor



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