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Photo: Win McNamee via Getty Images

Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson (R) signed legislation on Friday that will allow doctors to turn away some patients due to religious or moral objections.

Why it matters: It's a move opponents say will enable service providers to discriminate against patients, including LGBTQ people and others, AP writes.

Details: The provision, which won't take effect until this summer, gives providers "the right to not participate in non-emergency treatments that violate their conscience." It also claims to prohibit discrimination, per AP.

  • Refusal laws, often called “conscience” laws, are also deemed "dangerous" for women, per NARAL. Such measures "permit a broad range of individuals and institutions—including hospitals, health-care providers, pharmacists, employers, and insurers— to refuse to provide, pay, counsel, or even refer for medical treatment."
  • The new law is likely to face a challenge in court.

Worth noting: The Trump administration issued a similar rule in May 2019, allowing health care workers to refuse to provide operations like abortion, sterilization or assisted suicide, according to NPR.

  • A federal judge struck the rule down before it took effect, per CNBC.

What they're saying: "I support this right of conscience so long as emergency care is exempted and conscience objection cannot be used to deny general health service to any class of people," Hutchinson said in a statement.

  • Human Rights Campaign president Alphonso David said: “Governor Hutchinson is proving himself to be a cruel opponent of equality by signing this draconian medical refusal bill,” per a Friday afternoon statement.
  • HRC cited a number of scenarios in which a medical worker's refusal to provide non-emergency treatment could cause serious harm, such as:
    • Pharmacies refusing to fill prescriptions for birth control and antiretrovirals to treat HIV infection.
    • A doctor refusing to maintain hormone treatments for a trans patient who needed inpatient care for an infection.

The big picture: LGBTQ people already face discrimination in health care and are often likely to skip routine care, per the Center for American Progress.

  • It comes as part of a series of measures aimed at transgender people, many of which flew through the state's Republican-led legislature this year.
  • Hutchinson on Thursday signed into law a measure to bar trans women and girls from playing on sports teams that align with their gender identity.

Go deeper

Arkansas bans trans women, girls from school sports that align with their gender identity

Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson. Photo: Victor J. Blue/Bloomberg via Getty Images

Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson (R) signed a law Thursday barring transgender women and girls from participating in school sports that align with their gender identity.

Why it matters: Republicans in at least 25 states have introduced more than 60 bills targeting trans youth since January. Arkansas is the latest state to pursue school sports as a vehicle for anti-trans legislation.

1 dead as severe storms pummel the South

A tree that fell on a home carport damaged a vehicle during a storm in Central, Louisiana. No injuries were reported, according to Central Fire Department. Photo: Central Fire Department/Twitter

Strong storms lashed the South early Saturday, spawning at least one tornado and unleashing powerful winds and hail. And forecasters warned more severe weather was expected to hit parts of the region in the coming hours.

Details: Thousands of customers lost power in Florida, Mississippi, Arkansas, Texas and Louisiana, according to tracking site poweroutage.us. An F3 tornado that hit St Landry Parish, Louisiana, killed one person and wounded seven others.

Scoop: Biden eyes Russia adviser criticized as soft on Kremlin

Photo: Alexander Shcherbak\TASS via Getty Images

President Biden is considering appointing Matthew Rojansky, head of the Wilson Center's Kennan Institute, as Russia director on the National Security Council, according to a source familiar with the situation.

Why it matters: Rojansky has been praised for his scholarship on Russia and is frequently cited in U.S. media for his expert commentary. But his work has drawn criticism — including in a 2018 open letter from Ukrainian alumni of Kennan that blasted the think tank he runs as an "unwitting tool of Russia’s political interference."