Last Wednesday, Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine (R) signed a state budget, which includes an exemption that allows medical professionals and insurers to refuse to carry out procedures that contradict their religious beliefs.
According to page 1454 of the budget, "a medical practitioner, health care institution, or health care payer has 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 or principles held by the practitioner, institution, or payer."
"Exercise of the right of conscience is limited to conscience-based objections to a particular health care service," the section continues.
"Whenever a situation arises in which a requested course of treatment includes a particular health care service that conflicts with the moral, ethical, or religious beliefs or convictions of a medical practitioner, the medical practitioner shall be excused from participating."
Prior to the bill's signing, the Ohio chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union called the added conscience protection language a means to push discrimination.
"The practical implications may include Catholic hospitals refusing to admit LGBTQ Ohioans, health insurance companies refusing to pay for contraception, doctors blocking fertility treatments, and so much more," ACLU Ohio Chief Lobbyist Gary Daniels wrote in a statement.
Daniels asserted that "adoption of this language will result in less health care access across the state when someone does not like who you are or what you believe."
He went on to continue that since the conscience protections include non-religious objections, "discrimination against pro-choicers, Trump voters, meat-eaters, and Michigan fans will all be fair game."
In an interview with The Journal-News, Dr. Todd Kepler of Equitas Health, a nonprofit healthcare system serving LGBTQ patients, called the exemption "widely broad" in its language.
"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," Kepler said. "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," he continued.
Last Thursday, DeWine issued a statement explaining that the incorporating of the conscience protection in the budget "simply puts in statute what the practice has been anyways."
"Let's say the doctor is against abortion, the doctor is not doing abortion," DeWine said. "If there's other things that maybe a doctor has a conscience problem with, it gets worked out, somebody else does those things."
Photo courtesy: ©Getty Images/Pornpak Khunatorn
Milton Quintanilla is a freelance writer. He is also the co-hosts of the For Your Soul podcast, which seeks to equip the church with biblical truth and sound doctrine. Visit his blog Blessed Are The Forgiven.