Governor Mike DeWine (R) of Ohio has signed a bill that allows medical providers to refuse care to LGBTQ patients if they have an objection based on “religious” grounds.
The new language was apparently buried in last-minute amendments to the state’s two-year budget bill, which DeWine signed into law on June 30. Governor DeWine had the opportunity to line-item veto the language while signing the rest of the budget into law and refused to do so.
The new law allows any medical provider – from doctors and nurses to researchers, lab techs and insurance companies – “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.”
Local advocates warn this rule legalizes discrimination against LGBTQ patients as well as members of other marginalized groups like drug addicts or people living with HIV or sexually transmitted diseases.
Yesterday @GovMikeDewine approved a state budget that includes language allowing medical providers to deny care to LGBTQ people.
Health care is a right. This new law is bad for Ohio, bad for Ohioans, bad for doctors and bad for medicine.
— Human Rights Campaign (@HRC) July 1, 2021
Human Rights Campaign president Alphonso David in a statement, “Today governor DeWine enshrined LGBTQ discrimination into law, threatening the medical well being of more than 380,000 LGBTQ people in Ohio, one of the largest LGBTQ populations anywhere in the country.”
“Medical practitioners in Ohio can deny care or coverage for basic, medically-necessary, and potentially life-saving care to LGBTQ people simply because of who they are,” added David.
DeWine insisted the conscience clause will change very little, and claimed that no one in Ohio will be discriminated against.
“This simply puts in statute what the practice has been anyways,” he said. “Let’s say the doctor is against abortion, the doctor is not doing abortion. If there’s other things that maybe a doctor has a conscience problem with, it gets worked out, somebody else does those things.”
Dr. Todd Kepler, southwest medical director of Equitas Health, a nonprofit health care system serving LGBTQ patients in the Midwest, told Cincinnati ABC News affiliate WCPO the ”widely broad” language in the new rule will exacerbate existing barriers to care for many marginalized groups, like drug addicts, people living with HIV, and the LGBT+ community.
“Say I happen to be a gay patient and I wanted to see a provider in my town, and there weren’t really any other providers in town,” said Kepler. “But they find that morally unacceptable, they could turn me away.”
“And the language is so broad that that could even be done at an institutional level. So, if you have a hospital that perhaps has an affiliation with a religious institution, and again, that happens to be the only institution in town, theoretically they could turn that patient away for health care.”
Ohio allows doctors to deny LGBTQ health care on moral grounds. https://t.co/7HpxoRXTL4
— Rolling Stone (@RollingStone) July 7, 2021