Ohio Law allowing physicians to refuse to provide medical care worries LGBT community
Ohio (WOIO) - Under language added to Ohio’s budget last minute, doctors, nurses, and even Ohio insurance companies can now legally refuse to provide medical care if it violates their religious or moral beliefs.
House Bill 110 included what supporters call “a conscience clause” and was signed into law by Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine in June.
Language included in the bill has many Ohioans on edge.
Supporters of this law say it’s doesn’t allow medical providers to deny treating a specific patient - rather it allows them to refuse to perform specific procedures they think violate their religious beliefs, but members of the LGBTQ+ community say it’s not that simple.
“My rights are constantly being threatened and taken away from me,” said Eliana Turan, director of development at the LGBT Community Center of Greater Cleveland.
Turan, a Cleveland native, is an Army veteran and a transgender woman.
She says just because doctors technically can’t discriminate against her because she’s LGBT, that doesn’t mean HB110 won’t harm her community - especially since there are specific healthcare services that are disproportionately needed by the queer community.
“This is a back door means of discrimination against LGBTQ+ people, and I’m a transwoman,” said Turan. “I have a lot of healthcare needs. I’m on hormone replacement therapy. There are many things that I routinely go in for that could be taken away now completely legally, and I would have no recourse whatsoever.”
Under HB110 Ohio hospitals, physicians, and health insurance companies can refuse to treat or pay for a medical service if they believe it violates their moral or religious beliefs.
The new language also gives healthcare providers immunity from lawsuits for refusing to provide that care.
It’s not just the LGBT community that’s afraid for their rights, many believe it will restrict access to reproductive healthcare.
“I think this is a pivotal moment in the history of America regarding reproductive freedom,” Turan said. “You’re seeing a lot of things coming out of Texas and other places right now, and we have to ask ourselves if Ohio is actually doing the same thing but through a more back door means that people aren’t going to notice as much.”
Supporters of the bill like Michael Gonidakis with Ohio Right to Life are praising the governor for passing this, saying it gives healthcare providers more religious freedom.
“We have a law now that protects doctors, nurses, pharmacists and their deeply held religious beliefs and ethics and values,” said Gonidakis. “If they do not want to perform an abortion or be involved in abortion or prescribing abortification chemical drugs they shouldn’t have to.”
Many in the Ohio healthcare community have already voiced their opposition to HB110 including the Ohio Hospital Association, Ohio State Medical Association, and Ohio Association of Health Plans.
The organizations even put out a letter saying HB110 “could lead to situations where patient care is unacceptably compromised.”
The law also does not compel physicians to refer patients to another provider.
“Under that previous standard if they chose not to provide certain care then they were required to find a new practitioner,” said Kelly O’Reilly, president and CEO of the Ohio Association of Health Plans. “This makes it more discretionary, which we think is dangerous.”
Laura Mintz is a pediatrician at MetroHealth and part of her job is to eliminate the disparities in healthcare that members of the LGBT community face.
In many cases, her patients come from all over the state just to see her.
“Part of the reason why people will drive sometimes hours to see me is because they don’t have the experience of medical care that responds to their needs close to home,” said Mintz. “Lots of people in our communities have already had poor experiences with healthcare — both in feeling ridiculed or ashamed or scrutinized or not having their actual medical concerns addressed by physicians.”
Mintz believes the law goes against the Hippocratic oath.
“I think every medical provider who thinks about this for five minutes knows that anything that restricts access to healthcare leads to poorer health outcomes, leads to death, leads to illness,” she said.
As a gay man who currently takes prep, a medication to prevent HIV infection, Kenyon Farrow is terrified about what this could mean for him and others in the community, especially those living in more rural areas.
“It’s particularly dangerous for folks in rural communities who may only have access to one provider in you know a 10, 20, 30, 40, 50-mile radius and so if you are denied one time — whether it’s legal or not — and that provider decides that they don’t want to see you, for whatever stated quote, unquote religious reason, you don’t have any other options,” said Farrow.
“I absolutely think that this bill puts a lot of lives in danger,” said Turan, the Army veteran. “I think that it’s going to discourage people from seeking care.”
The law has caught the attention of those outside the state.
California recently announced a ban on all state-funded travel to Ohio.
“When states discriminate against LGBTQ+ Americans, the California Department of Justice must act,” said California’s Attorney General Rob Bonta.
“For me as a healthcare provider, its horrifying... I find it abominable that any physician would refuse to treat someone who needs healthcare,” said Mintz. “It is shocking to me that during the middle of a pandemic, ... where public health is even more important than it was before, that there would be a legislative effort to deny people access to care and to create fear in people.”
Copyright 2021 WOIO. All rights reserved.