The budget that was approved by the Ohio Senate today included language inserted at the last minute that would give healthcare providers the ability to refuse care if they feel that care conflicts with their “moral, ethical, or religious beliefs.”
“This amendment would essentially give free rein to anyone in the healthcare field to deny services to LGBTQ+ people by simply claiming that doing so would violate their religious beliefs,” said Alana Jochum, Executive Director of Equality Ohio in a statement.
Amendment SC3909 (“Medical Practitioner Conscience Clause”) was added without the opportunity for public comment. From the synopsis of the language:
Recognizes the authority of a medical practitioner, health care institution, or health care payer to decline to perform, participate in, or pay for any health care service that violates the practitioner’s, institution’s, or payer’s conscience as informed by the moral, ethical, or religious beliefs or principles held by the practitioner, institution, or payer.
Requires a medical practitioner, when the practitioner becomes aware of a health care service’s conflict with or violation of the practitioner’s beliefs or principles, to notify the practitioner’s supervisor (if applicable), request to be excused from the service, and, if willing, seek a colleague to perform the service.
Requires a patient, in the event a medical practitioner does not participate in a transfer of care or a colleague is unwilling to perform the service, to be notified and provided an opportunity to find an alternative medical practitioner and upon request, receive the patient’s medical records. Specifies that a medical practitioner, health care institution, or health care payer is not subject to civil, criminal, or administrative liability for declining to participate in or pay for a health care service.
Authorizes a medical practitioner, health care institution, or health care payer to bring a civil action in the event of a violation of the bill’s provisions and, if the practitioner, institution, or payer prevails, provides for treble damages, injunctive relief, costs, and attorney’s fees.
“This amendment becoming law threatens the lives of LGBTQ+ people across the state, especially those in rural areas, which often only have one hospital or specialty doctor for an entire county,” said Jochum.
Jochum outlined several scenarios if this language becomes law:
- A pharmacist could deny an LGBTQ+ person access to life saving insulin medication because they walked into a pharmacy with their partner.
- A physician’s assistant could override a patient’s directives on end of life care because of religious differences.
- An insurance representative could deny treatment based on a moral objection to gender affirming health care.
The GOP-majority Ohio Senate passed the budget along partisan lines. As this language does not appear in the budget passed by the House in April, this will be one of the many differences in their respective budgets that the House and Senate need to reconcile by month’s end.
Equality Ohio is asking that concerned Ohioans complete a webform that is sent to leaders at the Statehouse asking them to remove the harmful “License to Discriminate.”