Ohio Doctors Can Now Refuse To Treat LGBTQ Patients On ‘Religious’ Grounds

Stock image of a highway sign as you enter Ohio

Stock image of a highway sign as you enter Ohio

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.

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.”

News Round-Up: June 22, 2020

Chippendales’ Jeffrey Garrovillo and co-star (via Instagram)

Some news items you might have missed:

InstaHunks: Book a ‘Chippendales at Home’ party (above) and you never know – you might get two woofy Chipps for the price of one.

Instinct: Why are some gay Republicans unhappy about the recent Supreme Court victory for LGBTQ protections in the workplace?

Politico: A coalition of advocacy groups sued the Trump administration on Monday over its rollback of LGBTQ patient protections, arguing that last week’s Supreme Court decision extending workplace legal protections to gay and transgender employees invalidates the new rules.

LGBTQ Families: Family Source Consultants, Fertility Centers of Illinois and International Fertility League Group are hosting an expert-led discussion on family building for the LGBTQ+ community on June 25th at 5pm CDT via ZOOM. The informational event is focused on couples and individuals who are interested in building their family through third party reproduction.

Newsweek: Kentucky has slashed the number of polling locations for Tuesday’s primary elections to just 170 in-person polling stations across the Commonwealth — a major drop from the standard 3,700 sites usually made available for voters. The decrease comes as state officials heavily encourage residents to vote by mail amid the coronavirus health crisis. Many of the state’s most populous areas, like Jefferson County, home to half of the state’s Black residents, will have ONE polling location.

NY Post: A defiant shopper fought his way into an Orlando Walmart after he was denied entry for refusing to wear a face mask, a viral video shows. The incident occurred on the same day masks became mandatory in the county. In the viral video, an employee tries to block the man from entering. “You gotta wear a mask, bro!” the man behind the camera says. The older man then shoves the Walmart worker, even falling to the ground at one point.

Health Officials Warn Of Specific Vulnerabilities Of LGBTQs To Coronavirus

An open letter signed by over 100 LGBTQ or LGBTQ supportive organizations asks media outlets and health care providers to be aware that LGBTQ people have particular vulnerabilities in regard to the coronavirus.

The list of original signers to the open letter include the National LGBT Cancer Network, LGBTQ seniors advocacy group SAGE, New York Transgender Advocacy Group, National Queer Asian Pacific Islander Alliance, GLMA: Health Professionals Advancing LGBTQ Equality and Whitman-Walker Health.

“As the spread of the novel coronavirus a.k.a. COVID-19 increases, many LGBTQ+ people are understandably concerned about how this virus may affect us and our communities,” begins the letter.

“The undersigned want to remind all parties handling COVID-19 surveillance, response, treatment, and media coverage that LGBTQ+ communities are among those who are particularly vulnerable to the negative health effects of this virus.”

The group points to three specific factors that can lead to increased vulnerability for LGBTQ people:

• The LGBTQ+ population uses tobacco at rates that are 50% higher than the general population. COVID-19 is a respiratory illness that has proven particularly harmful to smokers.

• The LGBTQ+ population has higher rates of HIV and cancer, which means a greater number of us may have compromised immune systems, leaving us more vulnerable to COVID-19 infections.

• LGBTQ+ people continue to experience discrimination, unwelcoming attitudes, and lack of understanding from providers and staff in many health care settings, and as a result, many are reluctant to seek medical care except in situations that feel urgent – and perhaps not even then.

The letter also notes that there are more than 3 million LGBTQ seniors in the U.S. Studies have shown queer elders are less likely than heterosexual counterparts to reach out for aid from health and aging providers due to fear of discrimination.

In that COVID-19 has a much higher impact on people over 60, this dynamic becomes heightened during the current coronavirus threat.

The group encourages LGBTQ people to find welcoming health providers if they are experiencing symptoms like fever or coughing.

If you don’t have a medical provider you feel comfortable with, GLMA provides a directory for welcoming providers here.

Additionally, the Human Rights Campaign has a list of LGBTQ-friendly medical centers and hospitals here.

You can read the full letter at cancer-network.org/coronavirus.

The Centers for Disease Control lists several steps to help prevent coronavirus infection here.