SPRINGFIELD -- Six members of the Illinois congressional delegation have authored a letter to House Speaker Michael Madigan and the members of the Illinois House endorsing passage of Senate Bill 1564, a measure amending the Illinois Health Care Right of Conscience Act. The legislators note that the amendment insures that the patients get all necessary information to make informed decisions about their own health care when a doctor, nurse or hospital exercises a religious objection.

The letter was co-signed by Representatives Jan Schakowsky, Danny K. Davis, Luis V. Gutierrez, Mike Quigley, Robin L. Kelly and Tammy Duckworth.

The Congressional letter describes Senate Bill 1564, sponsored by Representative Robyn Gabel, as a "common sense" change to the current Illinois Health Care Right of Conscience Act that maintains "the religious or conscience protections afforded medical providers, while providing patients with the information necessary to make informed medical decisions and access the care they require."

Senate Bill 1564 passed the Illinois Senate recently on a strong, bi-partisan vote of 34 to 19, sponsored by State Senator Daniel Biss. Passage was assured after Senator Biss worked with the Illinois Catholic Conference, the Illinois Catholic Health Association and the Illinois State Medical Society to amend the proposal to address concerns raised by these groups in Committee. Patrick Cacchione, Executive Director of the Illinois Catholic Health Care Association, recently told the Chicago Tribune that failing to inform patients "of all possible treatments" and failing to point "them in the right direction to get the care they need" when a Catholic hospital cannot provide the care can constitute malpractice.

After Senate Bill 1564 cleared the State Senate, a small group of remaining opponents began to argue that passage of the legislation would put Illinois at risk of losing federal funds under three existing statutes, known as the Weldon Amendment, the Coats-Snowe Amendment and the Church Amendment.

The letter released today points out that "(n)othing in S.B.1564 is contradictory to Weldon, Coats-Snow or Church amendments."  The Members of the U.S. House further explain that these law block federal funds to entities (and in some case states) that "discriminate" against certain health care providers that refuse to offer certain services (especially abortion services) on religious or conscience grounds.

The letter notes that Representative Gabel's bill "does not compel any health care provider to do any of those things, much less discriminate against them for refusal to do so. S.B. 1564 requires that objecting health care providers give patients information about their medical conditions and treatment options in accordance with current standards of medical practice."

Senate Bill 1564 is expected to be heard in a House Committee in the next two weeks before being a final vote on the floor of the Illinois House.