The ACLU of Ohio filed a lawsuit Friday — on behalf of Equitas Health — challenging the challenging the “Medical Practitioner Conscience” law passed in 2021.
Governor Mike DeWine signed Ohio’s budget (HB 110) on June 30 — the final day of Pride Month — keeping intact the “Medical Practitioner Conscience” clause, which allows healthcare providers to refuse care if they feel that care conflicts with their “moral, ethical, or religious beliefs.”
The measure was quickly labeled “the most homophobic law in the country” and triggered widespread condemnation, including California restricting state-funded travel to Ohio.
The city of Columbus filed a lawsuit against the state last week regarding this same law.
This week’s legal challenge from the ACLU of Ohio was filed in the Franklin County Court of Common Pleas on behalf of Equitas Health, one of the nation’s largest LGBTQ+ and HIV/AIDS serving healthcare organizations.
The lawsuit seeks to declare HB 110 void and without legal effect for violating the single-subject rule of the Ohio Constitution. They argue that HB 110 was not passed as a freestanding item subject to the usual scrutiny and public debate of legislation. The Ohio Constitution requires bills to be limited to a single subject to prevent the logrolling of unnatural provisions into a single bill.
“The Healthcare Denial Law was snuck into an unrelated appropriations bill in the eleventh hour behind closed doors. Our constitution’s single-subject rule serves an essential democratic purpose in placing concrete limits on the power of the General Assembly. This extremely broad and vague provision is harmful to healthcare providers serving the LGBTQ+ community, who now face legal and monetary risk in ensuring their patients receive appropriate and necessary care. Religious freedom is not a license to discriminate,” said Amy Gilbert, staff attorney for the ACLU of Ohio.
Legal counsel for Equitas Health argue that the law inhibits the organization’s aim of fulfilling their mission.
“This law hurts Equitas Health’s ability to fulfill its mission of providing quality healthcare and preventative services to the LGBTQ+ community, individuals living with HIV/AIDS, and others who experience healthcare disparities,” said Karl Fanter, partner at BakerHostetler and pro bono counsel for Equitas Health.
Equitas further assert that the law has adverse health effects for all Ohioans.
“Equitas Health will always stand up for the rights of our patients and clients. The relationship between a patient and their medical provider is built on trust. This law puts that trust in jeopardy, further marginalizing the people who need our services most. The effects of this law are so chilling that Equitas Health has determined we can no longer wait. The time to fight for all patients’ rights is now,” said Kaarina Ornelas, Equitas Health interim board chair. 🔥