By DYLAN SMITH, NEWS3 Reporter
SPRINGFIELD, Illinois (NEWS3) – The Illinois Health Care Right of Conscience Act is being used by some to avoid COVID-19 vaccine and testing mandates.
The 1998 law bans discrimination against anyone who refuses to receive or participate in any particular form of health care service contrary to a person’s conscience.
The act states, “It is the public policy of the State of Illinois to respect and protect the right of conscience of all persons who refuse to obtain, receive or accept, or who are engaged in, the delivery of, arrangement for, or payment of health care services and medical care whether acting individually, corporately, or in association with other persons.”
In addition, the legislation also bans public and private institutions from discriminating against a person’s refusal to receive or obtain any form of health care services contrary to their conscience.
While some cite the HCRCA to avoid state COVID-19 vaccine and testing mandates, Ameri Klafeta, of the Illinois ACLU, says the act is not being used for its original purpose.
“The way that we saw this law used was the way that it was originally intended, which was to shield health care providers from liability if they don’t provide a health care service because of their religious or conscience beliefs,” Klafeta said. “No court case has ever applied the law so broadly to encompass employees seeking to avoid a mandate in the workplace the way that we’re seeing it now.”
According to Klafeta, an example of the HCRCA’s proper use would be a nurse who does not want to provide birth control because of a religious objection.
“It’s meant to shield a doctor or nurse or someone else working in health care from being sued or getting their license taken away,” Klafeta said.
It is possible for state legislators to clarify or even amend the act. It is ultimately left to state courts to decide how broad the Health Care Right Conscience Act be used.
According to the Illinois Department of Public Health, 54 percent of Illinois residents have been fully vaccinated.