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Ill. Legislature passes bill requiring religiously affiliated hospitals that deny certain services to inform patients where they can access care

The Illinois Legislature has passed legislation (SB 1564) that would require hospitals with religious objections to certain reproductive health services to inform patients about other facilities where they can access those services, Rewire reports.

The state Senate voted to 34-19 to approve the measure, while the state House passed the bill in a 61-54 vote. The measure now proceeds to Gov. Bruce Rauner (R) (Knight Shine, Rewire, 6/22).

Bill Details

The bill would change the state's Health Care Right of Conscience Act, which allows institutions and employees to refuse to provide certain services because of ethical and religious reasons. According to experts, objections under the law can include opposition to providing contraception, gender transition care or certain end-of-life services (Women's Health Policy Report, 4/21/15).

Under the bill, hospitals are not required to confirm that other facilities provide the unmet services. Instead, hospitals only need to have "reasonable belief" that they do. A previous version of the measure would have required hospitals to give patients a written list of known providers that perform procedures they object to.

Specifically, the measure would require hospitals to share the information about the other health care facilities with a patient in writing, or refer or transfer the patient to that facility. Hospitals would only have to provide the information if a patient requested the denied service (Rewire, 6/22).

Implications

The measure, if enacted, would apply to all hospitals in the state. However, the measure would have particular relevance for Catholic-affiliated hospitals, which handle about 25 percent of all admissions in the state (Women's Health Policy Report, 4/21/15).

According to Rewire, Catholic hospitals often comply with religious directives issued by the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops that prohibit certain health care services, including sterilization, in vitro fertilization and abortion care. Amid harmful denials of care at Catholic hospitals around the country, two other states -- Michigan and Washington state -- also have recently advanced measures to ensure patients are informed about access to health care.

Lorie Chaiten, director of the Reproductive Rights Project at the American Civil Liberties Union of Illinois, praised the bill, saying it "protects patients when health care providers exercise religious refusals" (Rewire, 6/22).