ACLU and Equitas Health challenge Ohio law allowing doctors to refuse care

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A law that leaves Ohio health providers refuse services which violate their religious or moral beliefs is challenged in court not on its merits but on the manner in which it was adopted.

The “medical conscience clause” was not a stand-alone piece of legislation. Instead, Republicans embedded language in Ohio’s 2,400-page budget during final negotiations.

“The health care denial law was slipped into an unrelated eleventh-hour appropriations bill behind closed doors,” ACLU of Ohio attorney Amy Gilbert said in a statement. communicated. “The single-subject rule of our constitution serves an essential democratic purpose by imposing practical limits on the power of the General Assembly.

And the ACLU, along with Equitas Health, is now asking the Franklin County Court of Common Pleas to strike down the provision.

“This discriminatory and vague amendment was introduced at the last minute with no opportunity for Ohioans to discuss and debate its controversial language,” according to a joint press release issued Friday.

It’s a different approach than Columbus attorney Zach Klein took earlier this month when he filed his own legal challenge to the conscience clause.

In her lawsuit, also filed in Franklin County, the city said it operated a women’s health center that provided birth control, other reproductive services and vaccinations. If a city employee at that clinic objects to a procedure, “they can refuse it and there’s nothing we as a city can do about it,” Klein said.

After:Columbus sues state over law allowing medical providers to refuse care based on ‘conscience’

The two pages of the conscience clause added to House Bill 110 state that whenever these conflicts arise, “the physician shall be excused from participating.”

Gov. Mike DeWine saw no problem with the language when he signed the budget bill into law in June 2021.

“People won’t be discriminated against when it comes to medical care,” DeWine told reporters.

Doctors who oppose abortions weren’t performing them before the bill was signed, so DeWine felt that this clause merely transposed into law something that was already happening.

LGBTQ rights advocates, however, fear the clause could make it even harder for LGBTQ people, especially those under 18, to find mental health care.

After:Conscience clause increases barriers to mental health care for LGBTQ youth, advocates say

“The relationship between a patient and their health care provider is built on trust. This law puts that trust at risk, further marginalizing those who need our services the most,” said Kaarina Ornelas, Board Chair of administration of Equitas Health, in a press release. “The effects of this law are so frightening that our board of directors has decided we can’t wait any longer.”

Anna Staver is a reporter for the USA TODAY Network Ohio Bureau. It serves the Columbus Dispatch, the Cincinnati Enquirer, the Akron Beacon Journal and 18 other affiliated news outlets in Ohio.

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