White House: Let inquiry run course
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.