Governor Pritzker Signs COVID-19 Amendment to Illinois Conscience Act – Community News
Covid-19

Governor Pritzker Signs COVID-19 Amendment to Illinois Conscience Act

SPRINGFIELD, Illinois (AP) — Gov. JB Pritzker on Monday signed an amendment to the Illinois Health Care Right of Conscience Act that could face repercussions for those who refuse the COVID-19 vaccine.

The law was passed in 1978 to protect doctors from penalties or disciplinary action for refusing abortions because of religious or moral objections. Democratic Attorney General Kwame Raoul asked Pritzker to encourage legislation to make it clear that the law was not intended to cover an infectious and deadly pandemic.

“Masks, vaccines and testing requirements are life-saving measures that keep our workplaces and communities safe,” said Pritzker, who thanked lawmakers for ensuring the law is “no longer misused against institutions that put safety and science first.”

Lawsuits have been filed by employees who claim they cannot be punished for refusing the shot because the law provides a conscience-based exemption. Some employees have even applied for exemptions from taking preventative measures, such as wearing face coverings or testing for a coronavirus infection.

Democrats stressed that religious exceptions still exist under federal law, although experts dispute the availability of such exceptions under three federal statutes that Pritzker’s office cited.

Across the country, exemptions are allowed under the Civil Rights Act. In Maine and New York, two major cases are pending that invoke the freedom of worship clause of the US Constitution. Both would be on their way to the US Supreme Court.

“I hope this sheds some light on the situation as we work to protect public health and reverse this pandemic that has demanded so much of us,” said Senate President Don Harmon, an Oak Park Democrat.

The law will not come into effect until June 1, 2022. Democrats wanted an immediate effective date, but the state constitution requires more votes than they could muster in floor action. Republican critics argue the door is open to more lawsuits. A new vote after January 1 could then bring the law into effect because fewer votes would be needed.