BY TYLER DURDEN
TUESDAY, NOV 02, 2021 – 06:25 PM
Unless you want your blood to boil, do not watch the video from last week of supporters of a bill to amend Illinois’ Health Care Right of Conscience Act (HCRCA). Dishonesty, despotism and undisguised ignorance were on full display in a move to assure compliance with vaccine and other COVID mandates.
Passed in 1977, HCRCA has been a point of distinction in which Illinois can take pride. It prohibits discrimination against anybody who chooses not to receive any particular form of health care services that are contrary to his or her conscience.
Predictably, HCRCA is being used by those who are at risk of losing their jobs because of their opposition to COVID vax mandates, and action in the courts has been going their way. Several Illinois courts have provided temporary relief against the mandates pending full hearings and appeals.
That makes Gov. JB Pritzker and his allies in the General Assembly unhappy. They want mandate resisters punished. HCRCA is getting in the way of that, so they want it amended.
They turned to Rep. Robyn Gabel (D-Evanston) to carry their bill, which she sponsored, to strip the right to object to COVID vax mandates under HCRCA.
Gabel is personification of that confluence of dishonesty, despotism and undisguised ignorance, which we have documented before in the stories linked below. Some other supporters were guilty of some of the same in how they defended the bill.
To fully appreciate how bad their performance was, you really need to watch at least part of the video linked here of the House debtate, particularly Gabel’s answers to questions. It’s readily apparent that she has no interest in honestly describing her bill, and no understanding of what existing law says, where the science on COVID stands and how legislative and judicial processes work.
Watch the video if you can, but here are a few highlights:
The first and most obvious question came from Rep. Adam Neimberg (R-Tuetopolis), who asks what recourse would remain, if the bill becomes law, for those whose consciences say no vax.
But Gabel can’t even provide her own answer on that. She turns to an aide for an answer, as she does repeatedly throughout the hearing, and ends up simply re-reading something from her opening statement, which does not answer the question.
Watch how often she needs help even on the simplest questions, and she often seems unable to repeat what her aid tells her in an intelligible fashion.
Gabel repeatedly says her bill “merely clarifies the well-established intent of the original law.”
What? How does a legislature clarify the intent of a legislature from decades earlier? It can’t. The original intent is what it is. The purpose of the amendment is obviously to change the law. It’s just that it’s supporters don’t have the courage to say that directly. In fact Gabel expressly says the bill is not changing existing law. Of course it is.
Far more importantly, legislative intent means nothing when a law’s words are clear. And both a federal court and state court have said that the relevant parts of HCRCA are clear, leaving nothing to intent. Rep. Deanne Mazzochi (R-Westmont) addressed that directly with Gabel starting at about the 19.00 mark. Gabel says she has no knowledge of that.
HCRCA was intended, Gabel says, only to be about abortion, contraceptives and the like. Everybody knows that now “with certainty.” And the law is being “intentionally distorted” so people can “thumb their noses” at the vax, she says. Anybody who claims otherwise is engaging in the spread of misinformation, she says.
No, there is nothing in HCRCA limiting it to abortion and other family planning matters. The law is what the courts say it is, not what Gabel or anybody else wants, and the courts have said it means what it says.
It says, in essence, that it is unlawful to discriminate in any manner because of somebody’s conscientious refusal to participate in any way in any particular form of health care services contrary to his or her conscience. The full text of the relevant portion is reproduced below.
Gabel says at one point, in questioning from Mazzochi, that HCRCA is not supposed to apply to vax mandates because the vax is “not in a healthcare setting.” That’s just too preposterous to warrant a response.
Gabel says repeatedly that federal remedies remain, and her bill expressly says they do. That’s just show. Of course they do. The problem is that the federal law is far more restrictive and difficult to use, which is why the Pritzker Administration has targeted the Illinois law.
At about the 50.00 mark, Rep. Keith Wheeler (R-North Aurora) asks about the amendment being worded so broadly that any mandate could be imposed by an employer, no matter how extreme, unfounded or irrational, still leaving the employee with no recourse.
Gabel says that’s not an issue because there is no disagreement about proper steps to mitigate COVID.
Is she entirely unaware of the intense debate going on among medical experts and the huge differences across nations in the mitigations they decided will work? Among those open issues are mask mandates, whether those with prior infection need vaccination, who needs boosters, whether children need vaccinations and much, much more. How completely uninformed must one be to be oblivious to those open issues.
Most importantly, those issues include the growing evidence and scientific opinion that vaccinated people spread the virus about as much as the unvaccinated, which destroys the rationale for mandates.
As for the current courts ruling in favor of those objecting to mask mandates, that’s just “a few courts bastardizing” the intent of the bill, Gabel says. The same charge was made by at least one other bill supporter on the tape. I suspect that won’t help them in those cases, which are ongoing.
Most fundamentally, Gabel repeatedly says her amendment does not take away any right. That’s fundamentally dishonest because, as of now, people do have a right to use HCRCA respecting COVID and vaccines for it. We do not yet know what courts will ultimately say about that right, but Gabel is simply wishing away a right that is for the courts to further define.
* * *
All is not lost.
First, though the bill has now passed both the House and Senate, enough lawmakers in both parties voted against it to bar immediate effect. That means the effective date will be June 1, 2022.
Second, gamesmanship by the sponsors may backfire on them. The bill initially included examples of what punishments would be permissible for those who refused vax and other COVID mandates. Those examples included terminating employment and excluding individuals from a school or a place of employment. But those examples were later deleted as a cosmetic attempt to make the bill look more palatable. It’s conceivable that the deletion would be interpreted to mean that those actions are not permissible under bill as finalized.
Finally, and most importantly, step back and look beyond the conduct of Illinois lawmakers and the details of their wording. Principles far more important are at issue. Listen to recent words of Christine Anderson, a German member of the European Parliament.
You may not agree with her decision not to be vaccinated or her views on that. I am among the vaccinated. But this is about the rights of those who choose otherwise, and Anderson’s broader message is timeless. A video of her is here.