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LGBTQ Health Care Threatened In Ohio on Phony “Moral Grounds”

This new bill, which could have doctors deny care to LGBTQ+ patients, was snuck in last minute and can have devastating implications.

A Lawmakers in Ohio snuck a provision into the budget bill that directly attacks LGBTQ+ people’s access to health care in the state. A last-minute provision allows doctors (but not just doctors) to deny care to patients if the care goes against their “moral” beliefs. Here’s what to know about the dangerous new rule.

What is the provision?

According to Rolling Stone, Ohio’s provision will allow every medical provider to refuse to give any medical treatment to patients if that treatment violates their religious, ethical, or moral beliefs. The medical professionals protected in this provision are wide-reaching and include nurses, lab techs, doctors, researchers, and insurance providers.

The exact wording reads that these medical professionals have “the freedom to decline to perform, participate in, or pay for any health care service which violates the practitioner’s, institution’s, or payer’s conscience as informed by the moral, ethical, or religious beliefs.”

How did this provision pass?

While the provision on its own is shady and harmful, the way it passed through the courts is another level of dark. According to reports, the wording was hidden in a 700-page document on the state’s two-year budget bill and was added last minute. The bill – and thus the provision – was approved by Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine on July 1, 2021.

When the bill was first being discussed, it was opposed by Ohio’s medical community, to an overwhelming degree.

The Ohio Association of Health Plans, Ohio Children’s Hospital Association, the Ohio Medical Association, and the Ohio Hospital Association, among other groups warned that this bill would have devastating effects on the community.

“The implications of this policy are immense and could lead to situations where patient care is unacceptably compromised,” a letter read, which was signed by the above medical associations.

But it was snuck into the budget bill last minute before the medical community could intervene again. And it’s not as though Governor Mike DeWine just didn’t know the provision was in the bill. In fact, he struck a lot of other language out of the budget, but not this provision.

“Gov. DeWine could have struck the language while signing the rest of the budget into law,” Rolling Stone reports, “but declined to do so, despite issuing 14 other line-item vetoes.”

What will this new bill do, and how will it impact people?

The bill is said to target LGBTQ people who may be seeking medical care specific to their needs. The bill doesn’t allow medical professionals to flat-out deny any care to LGBTQ people should they break an arm or have the flu.

Still, it gives medical professionals an out from providing affirming health care to LGBTQ+ people and addressing their specific health needs. And, what happens if a doctor agrees to provide something for an LGBTQ+ person, but a lab tech worker refuses to process their tests? What happens if the surgeon does a surgery, but insurance refuses to pay for it?

The implementation of the bill feels like it exists in direct opposition to the Hippocratic Oath.

The provision “is limited to conscience-based objections to a particular health care service,” adding that medical providers are “responsible for providing all appropriate health care services, other than the particular health care service that conflicts with the medical practitioner’s beliefs or convictions until another medical practitioner or facility is available.”

According to reports, the new language in the bill allows medical professionals to refuse important and life-saving care, including gender-affirming care to nonbinary and trans patients, puberty blockers to transgender minors, and will allow medical professionals to refuse to give an LGBTQ patient access to care to help reduce the risk of HIV, including prescribing Pre-Exposure Prophylaxis (PrEP).

What are people saying about it?

“This will have detrimental effects in Ohio; there is no question about that,” Gwen Stembridge, the statewide civic engagement director for Equality Ohio, told WEWS, according to them. “I saw the billboard that said, ‘Ohio, you can find it here,’ and I was thinking about discrimination, now it makes it clear, that discrimination in Ohio, you can find it here.”

Human Rights Campaign President Alphonso David adds that this new bill jeopardizes “the medical wellbeing of more than 380,000 LGBTQ people in Ohio.”

This is the latest in a line of attack laws on LGBTQ communities.

According to Human Rights Campaign, this Ohio bill is another in a long list of attacks on the health and wellbeing of the LGBTQ community, and one of dozens that have been introduced and passed in the last year to restrict the community’s access to basic care.

“These bills represent a cruel effort to further stigmatize and discriminate against LGBTQ people across the country, specifically trans youth who simply want to live as their true selves and grow into who they are,” the campaign says.

“These bills are not only harmful and discriminatory,” the campaign continues, “but also represent a failure in our democracy and the commitment elected officials make to protect and serve their constituents.”