Victoria Hansen of NPR writes that South Carolina’s recently adopted Medical Ethics and Diversity Act allows medical practitioners to deny non-emergency health care based on an ethical, moral, or religious belief.
Several critics of the law fear it will be disproportionately used to deny care to LGBTQI+ patients. In addition to leveling accusations of discrimination against Gov. Henry McMaster, critics also worry that contraceptives, end-of-life care, and gender-affirming care could be restricted by some doctors or insurance companies under the law.
The new law lets health care providers refuse nonemergency care that conflicts with their religious, moral or ethical beliefs. Supporters say it protects doctors, nurses and medical students from being forced to violate their conscience. However, critics call the law a license to discriminate, especially against LGBTQ people.
“This is America, where you should have the freedom to say no to something you don’t believe in,” says South Carolina state Sen. Larry Grooms, who championed the law.
The law will allow doctors to opt-out of prescribing certain medications – such as birth control or gender-affirming treatments – or participating in non-emergency consultations they object to on moral grounds. Critics of the law say that it removes the patient from the equation by focusing on the treatment rather than the person.
But Ivy Hill, the community health program director for the LGBTQ rights group Campaign for Southern Equality, says you can’t separate a person from the medical procedure that the person needs.
“It is absolutely targeting people,” says Hill.
Hill says the bill adds another barrier to medical care that’s already scarce for LGBTQ people, especially in rural South Carolina. In fact, Hills says it’s so difficult that the Campaign for Southern Equality put together a directory of LGBTQ-friendly medical providers across the South, inspired by the Green Book that Black people used to find services when they faced discriminatory laws.
“These are real people in our community who need help and who need care,” says Hill.