A subcommittee of the South Carolina House Judiciary Committee in Columbia voted February 25 to advance H.4776, a bill that would grant a broad “license to discriminate” for a wide range of healthcare workers. This bill is the House version of S.811, which was amended earlier this month to more specifically sanction anti-LGBTQ so-called “conversion therapy.”

SC United for Justice & Equality, a coalition of more than 30 organizations committed to LGBTQ equality in South Carolina opposes both versions of this bill, which could have devastating impacts on LGBTQ people, women of color, and people of diverse faith backgrounds. 

The bill would grant medical providers a broad “license to discriminate” – that is, deny care and services – based on their personal or religious beliefs, which could negatively impact LGBTQ people, women, people of color, and people of diverse faith backgrounds. The bill is so broadly defined it could allow doctors, nurses, receptionists and other employees to refuse to admit or offer services to patients in need of care in any non-emergency situation. The specific services listed in the bill that a medical care provider can refuse include an “initial examination,” which suggests that a medical professional could refuse services based solely on who a person is, not just the care they need. Additionally, this bill would also allow a “medical practitioner, health care institution, or health care payer” to discriminate against the LGBTQ community in their employment practices, as well as allowing insurance companies the ability to refuse to pay for care. 

Dozens of South Carolinians testified against the bill today, including representatives from the SC United for Justice & Equality coalition, criticizing the bill’s problematic vagueness, overbroad nature, and the myriad ways it would impact marginalized people, especially those who live in rural communities. Every House member of the subcommittee expressed grave concerns about the legislation and shared desires to discuss these problems further in full committee. 

Holly Whitfield, Executive Director of the Alliance for Full Acceptance, spoke on behalf of the SC United coalition.

“No one should face discrimination because of who they are or who they love – and everyone should be able to access quality, affirming healthcare in their hometown,” said Whitfield. “H.4776 would allow virtually anyone who works in the healthcare field to claim a so-called ‘conscience’ objection to equally and fairly serving South Carolinians. A receptionist could refuse to check in a patient receiving gender-affirming care. A pharmacist could refuse to fill a birth control or fertility treatment prescription. A nursing home staffer could refuse to offer trans patients’ hormone therapy. This is so broad and so dangerous – and the full committee must reject it.”