A new law approved and signed by South Carolina Governor Henry McMaster negatively impacts the medical care of all South Carolinians, including the LGBTQ+ community. It can limit access to critical services like gender-affirming care, contraceptives, HIV medications, fertility care, end of life care, and mental health services, as well as allow insurance companies and employers to refuse to reimburse, pay, or contract for medically necessary services.

In addition, healthcare institutions will be able to refuse to refer, teach, and research any items they deem to be against their beliefs. Medical institutions will be able to refuse to publish research, healthcare providers will be able to override patients’ end of life decisions, and pharmacies will be able to refuse to fill contraception prescriptions.

While religious freedom is a fundamental American value, protecting religious minorities from discrimination is not incompatible with protecting vulnerable and at risk populations. A recent PRRI survey found that 58 percent of South Carolinians are opposed to religiously based service refusals.

Human Rights Campaign Legal Director Sarah Warbelow released the following statement:

“Governor McMaster has failed to advocate for the people of South Carolina and should be ashamed to put his name on such a discriminatory law. This is a dangerous step backwards in the fight for equal access to healthcare, prioritizing personal beliefs over necessary medical care. It dangerously legitimizes non-medical opinions of health care institutions, medical providers, and even insurance companies at the cost of critical patient care, compromising the health and safety of all South Carolinians. It is deeply troubling that politicians in South Carolina are blatantly ignoring the repercussions this law will have, including for those in the LGBTQ+ community, to pander to their extreme base. The Human Rights Campaign will do everything in our power to fight this dangerous provision that threatens the wellbeing of so many people across the state of South Carolina.”

Ivy Hill, a leader in the SC United for Justice & Equality coalition, Community Health Program Director for the Campaign for Southern Equality, and Executive Director of Gender Benders, also released a statement:

“It is already too challenging for vulnerable patients in South Carolina, especially transgender people and other LGBTQ+ people who live in rural communities, to access affirming, quality medical care. This law will make that access even more challenging, granting any medical provider a license to discriminate. The law’s sponsors falsely claim to merely be allowing medical providers to opt out of offering specific types of care – but when that care is disproportionately necessary for a transgender person (such as gender-affirming hormone therapy), a same-sex couple (such as fertility treatments) or a man who has sex with men (such as PrEP), then the law is clearly discriminating against people based on who they are. We urge all medical providers to continue standing by their oath to Do No Harm – and that includes caring for all people and their unique needs.”