Gov. Rauner Sued Over Right-Of-Conscience Law

Aug 8, 2016

A Rockford pregnancy center and Downers Grove doctor are suing to overturn the newly updated Illinois right-of-conscience law.

Right-of-conscience laws come into play when medical providers' obligations to provide treatment conflict with their personal beliefs.

The governor just signed a law updating the Illinois statute.

No doctor is required to perform an abortion, but a physician -- even one with moral or faith-based opposition to the practice -- now is required to refer a patient to a medical professional who will provide the procedure.

The obstetrician and pregnancy centers are represented by attorney Kevin Theriot, with the Alliance for Defending Freedom. He says referral is akin to participation.

"The danger here is that people are starting to say, 'Well you can have freedom of religion, you can abide by your conscience ... as long as it doesn't make me uncomfortable or might make something a little inconvenient for me,'" he said.

He says no doctor should be forced to be an accomplice to something that violates his conscience.

"We have doctors who not only don't want to participate in abortion, but don't want to refer people for that procedure," Theriot said.

Theriot has filed a lawsuit seeking to get the law thrown out.

The law stems from a situation in which a pregnant woman says her health was endangered when her doctor's religious beliefs interfered with his treatment of her.

Advocates say the law ensures patients will receive all medically necessary information; the actual language does not specify abortion.

The updated act says that it is the state's policy "to respect and protect the right of conscience" of anyone who delivers medical care and "to ensure that patients receive timely access to information and medically appropriate care." It also says health-care facilities must have protocols to ensure that conscience-based objections "do not cause impairments of patients' health" and that, if a patient requests care that a physician can't provide, the doctor or someone else at the hospital or health care facility must transfer the patient.

A court date is set Nov. 3.