White House: Let in­quiry run course

Northwest Arkansas Democrat-Gazette - - FRONT PAGE -

A White House spokesman said Sun­day that it’s pre­ma­ture to say that At­tor­ney Gen­eral Jeff Ses­sions should re­cuse him­self and ap­point a spe­cial pros­e­cu­tor to look into Rus­sian med­dling in the 2016 U.S. elec­tion aimed at help­ing elect Don­ald Trump.

The as­sess­ment by Sarah Huck­abee San­ders comes as a grow­ing num­ber of Democrats are call­ing for Ses­sions, who was a key fig­ure in Trump’s cam­paign, to step aside as the FBI and the Jus­tice De­part­ment re­view re­cent events in a for­mal in­ves­ti­ga­tion.

Ap­pear­ing Sun­day on ABC’s This Week, San­ders said con­gres­sional com­mit­tees look­ing into Rus­sian ac­tiv­ity should be al­lowed to do their work first.

“I don’t think we’re there yet,” she said. “Let’s work through this process. You guys want to jump to the very end of the line.

“We’re con­fi­dent what­ever re­view that Congress wants to do, that’s the first step,” San­ders said.

San­ders also said the in­ves­ti­ga­tions would find no ef­forts by the Trump cam­paign to col­lude with Rus­sians and sug­gested that the fo­cus on Rus­sia was be­ing driven by Democrats still up­set by the elec­tion re­sult.

“We’re ex­tremely con­fi­dent that, what­ever re­view, they’re all go­ing to come to the same con­clu­sion: that we had no in­volve­ment in this,” San­ders said.

The prob­lem, McCoy said, is that Arkansas’ cur­rent con­sci­en­tious ob­jec­tion statutes are nar­rowly tai­lored to al­low doc­tors to opt out of per­form­ing abor­tions and abor­tion-re­lated coun­sel­ing. Those pro­tec­tions do not ex­tend to in­sur­ance providers and do not cover other health care ser­vices, such as work­ing with stem cells.

HB1628 would cre­ate “um­brella” pro­tec­tions through­out the health care sec­tor, McCoy said.

Pro­vid­ing his own ex­am­ple, Smith said the leg­is­la­tion would pro­tect a Mus­lim doc­tor from per­form­ing heart surgery with the heart valves of a pig, if he has re­li­gious ob­jec­tions.

How­ever, no physi­cians have reached out ask­ing for such pro­tec­tions, ac­cord­ing Arkansas Med­i­cal So­ci­ety Ex­ec­u­tive Vice Pres­i­dent David Wroten, who said the statewide as­so­ci­a­tion would “def­i­nitely have con­cerns” with the leg­is­la­tion.

“In­sur­ance com­pa­nies do not have con­sciences” be­cause they are not peo­ple, Wroten

said. HB1628 could open the door to them de­clin­ing to pro­vide cov­er­age for things such as birth con­trol. The as­so­ci­a­tion will reach out to the bill’s spon­sors once it has com­pleted a re­view of the leg­is­la­tion, he said.

Ken­dra John­son, the Arkansas di­rec­tor of the Hu­man Rights Cam­paign, said pre­vi­ous leg­is­la­tion, in­clud­ing the state’s 2015 Re­li­gious Free­dom Restora­tion Act, of­fer sim­i­lar re­li­gious pro­tec­tions to Arkansans with­out go­ing as far as the HB1628.

“This is a li­cense to dis­crim­i­nate in the health care set­ting,” John­son said.

Last year, Arkansas law­mak­ers ap­proved new ethics rules al­low­ing coun­selors to turn away clients for rea­sons of con­science. Leg­isla­tive ap­proval came de­spite ob­jec­tions from the Amer­i­can Coun­sel­ing As­so­ci­a­tion, which said such a rule would vi­o­late na­tional stan­dards.

Smith said he does not fore­see that the leg­is­la­tion would cause dif­fi­culty for peo­ple to find care, and that doc­tors would sim­ply ask their col­leagues to per­form ser­vices they ob­ject to. He said the Catholic Dio­cese of Arkansas had ex­pressed in­ter­est in the bill.

The dio­cese is re­view­ing the bill but had not taken a stance as of Fri­day, said Chan­cel­lor Den­nis Lee, who added that the church does not op­er­ate any of the Catholic hospi­tals in the state. Pa­trick Gal­lagher, a lob­by­ist for the Catholic Char­i­ties of Arkansas, said his group had had talks with the spon­sors.

The group’s con­cern is with pro­vid­ing ser­vices such as abor­tion and coun­sel­ing of con­tra­cep­tion, Gal­lagher said, and not with the peo­ple it serves. Gal­lagher said he had not yet re­viewed the bill, which was filed Tues­day.

Ac­cord­ing to the Fam­ily Coun­cil, sim­i­lar leg­is­la­tion has passed in Illi­nois and Mis­sis­sippi. Health care “con­science” leg­is­la­tion has also been filed in the U.S. House and Se­nate.

The bill has been re­ferred to the House Pub­lic Health, Wel­fare and La­bor Com­mit­tee.

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