MYRTLE BEACH, S.C. (WBTW) – South Carolina Gov. Henry McMaster will sign a bill that allows medical providers to deny care based on religious beliefs, according to a spokesperson with the governor’s office.
McMaster is expected to sign the bill Friday afternoon, according to Brian Symmes.
House Bill 4776, also known as the “Medical Ethics and Diversity Act,” states “A medical practitioner, health care institutions, and health care payers have the right not to participate in or pay for any health care service which violates the practitioner’s or entity’s conscience.”
The bill also protects those same health care providers from civil or criminal liability as well as discrimination, with some exceptions. The law does not override federal laws or regulations that require health care providers to issue emergency medical treatment to all patients.
The bill allows health care providers to only object to particular services but they may still have to provide other care that doesn’t violate their beliefs to patients. It allows them to practice their personal right of conscience, which refers to religious, moral or ethical beliefs.
The South Carolina General Assembly said it’s an unalienable right.
The bill states a provider denying care based on this bill may, at their discretion or request of a patient, refer patients to other places to receive care or provide information on how to receive care.
The Human Rights Campaign told News13 in April that the bill is unnecessary.
“That puts patients in a terrible position of not being able to receive the care that they need,” said Sarah Warbelow, legal director for the Human Rights Campaign.
Health care services listed in the bill that may go against personal beliefs include exams, giving out medications — such as birth control — psychological therapy or counseling.
The bill specifically mentions abortions, stating that a practitioner shouldn’t have to perform an abortion unless the practitioner specifies to their employer in writing that they can perform it. There are three abortion clinics in the state.
“It impacts people who are trying to access a whole host and range of medications at a pharmacy, whether it is birth control pills, medications to prevent HIV, anything that a pharmacist could object to,” Warbelow said in April.
The bill does not allow practitioners to refuse care to a patient based on race. The bill will go into effect as soon as it is signed.