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Illinois House Democrats approve COVID-19 clarification to Health Care Right of Conscience Act

Democrats are one step closer to changing the Illinois Health Care Right of Conscience Act....
Democrats are one step closer to changing the Illinois Health Care Right of Conscience Act. House Democrats passed a proposal to clarify a portion of the law on a 64-52-2 vote late Wednesday night(Source: Gray TV)
Published: Oct. 28, 2021 at 2:54 AM CDT
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SPRINGFIELD, Ill. (Gray TV)- Democrats are one step closer to changing the Illinois Health Care Right of Conscience Act. House Democrats passed a proposal to clarify a portion of the law on a 64-52-2 vote late Wednesday night.

The vote came after nearly an hour and a half of debate.

Democrats said the 1998 law was never meant to be used during a pandemic. In fact, the current legislation passed to help medical providers who decided to not perform certain procedures if it was against their conscience.

Although, many Republicans argued Democrats are taking away a personal decision and creating a government mandate.

A growing number of people have used the law as a way to get out of the recent COVID-19 vaccine mandates for teachers and certain state employees. Gov. JB Pritzker and many Democrats believe people have misinterpreted the law in order to file lawsuits against the administration.

Clarifying the Health Care Right of Conscience Act

Sponsors of Senate Bill 1169 say this is only a clarification of the Health Care Right of Conscience Act. Rep. Robyn Gabel (D-Evanston) said this amendment clarifies public officials and private companies can impose COVID-19 mandates as part of someone’s employment.

However, Democrats changed their initial language for the amendment Wednesday afternoon. The initial proposal said employers could possibly terminate people refusing to get the vaccine or tested.

Gabel stressed the new proposal is not a vaccine mandate.

“It simply clarifies the well-established legislative intent of the Health Care Right of Conscience Act. That is all,” Gabel said. “It is not a mandate. We are not mandating anything. We are not requiring anyone to do anything new. As the bill itself says, it’s merely a declaration of existing law and not a new enactment.”

Gabel also stressed the bill still enshrines federal protections available to anyone. Those include any civil rights or religious protections.

If this plan passes out of the Senate and gets approval from Pritzker, the legislation goes into effect on June 1, 2022. Although, many people can assume this would be used to squash ongoing legal battles against vaccine and testing mandates.

Republicans blasted the proposal

“This is a Trojan horse,” said Rep. Steven Reick (R-Woodstock).

Rep. Deanne Mazzochi (R-Elmhurst) also said the proposal could lead to “absurd” results.

“You can let an employer or any person employed by any unit of government in the state of Illinois force a person to do things, even things your doctor thinks are medically contraindicated, wrong or harmful. Tonight, your yes vote means you denied them a remedial claim,” Mazzochi said. “They get nothing in a court of law. That is contrary to the legislative intent of our Right of Conscience Act.”

Rep. Bob Morgan (D-Deerfield) said the current law has been “bastardized by a few rural courts.” He noted those decisions jeopardized efforts to keep people safe in Illinois.

“It would be laughable if it were not so real,” Morgan said. “The majority will not stand idly by while that happens.”

The Senate will likely vote on the proposal on Thursday.

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