As of May 10, the South Carolina Senate voted to pass H.4776, a bill conservatives are referring to as the “medical freedom bill,” which would grant a broad license to discriminate for medical practitioners, healthcare institutions, and health care payers, including doctors, nurses, counselors, pharmacists, and insurers. The bill, which passed 28-15, and will negatively impact LGBTQ+ South Carolinians, will soon head to Governor Henry McMaster. It is one of the first bills of its kind to pass anywhere in the country.
Last week the Senate also passed H.4608, a bill restricting transgender students from participating in school sports. These bills come against the backdrop of a wave of anti-LGBTQ legislation in states nationwide.
H.4776 would allow medical providers denying care to cite their personal or religious beliefs in order to refuse services to people, including LGBTQ people. The bill will impact access to gender-affirming care, contraceptives, HIV medications, fertility care, end of life care, and mental health services. It will allow insurance providers and employers to categorically deny medically necessary treatments such as hormone replacement therapy and PrEP.
SC United for Justice & Equality, a coalition of more than 30 organizations committed to LGBTQ equality in South Carolina, spoke out against H.4776.
Holly Whitfield, Executive Director of the Alliance for Full Acceptance (AFFA) and a leader in SC United for Justice & Equality coalition, released the following statement:
“We all care about the freedom of religion – but that freedom doesn’t allow anyone, including medical providers, to discriminate against people because of who they are. By passing this bill the South Carolina legislature is sanctioning providers who want to refuse to do their jobs, including providers who object to transgender dignity, same-sex sexual activity, sex outside of marriage, and people seeking to prevent HIV. We rely on our healthcare landscape to ensure we can access the services that allow us to thrive – but now, under this law, that access could be jeopardized, especially given the number of South Carolinians who live in rural areas. We urge Gov. McMaster to reject this discriminatory bill.”
This article originally appeared on the website of SC United for Equality & Justice.