COLUMBIA, SC (WSPA) — South Carolina lawmakers held a hearing on a bill that would also override the city of Columbia’s ‘conversion therapy’ ban for minors.
This month, the city of Columbia made ‘conversion therapy’ illegal for anyone under 18. City council passed an ordinance that would fine licensed therapists for offering ‘conversion therapy’ to minors in attempts to change their sexual orientations or gender identities.
Senator Josh Kimbrell (R-District 11) filed the ‘Medical Ethics and Diversity Act’ back in May when the city council was considering the ban.
During a Senate Medical Affairs subcommittee meeting Monday morning, he told the panel of lawmakers, “This not an attack on anybody. This is defending an attack on people for what they believe. The South Carolina Senate did not fire the first shot here.”
Sen. Kimbrell said the bill would extend ‘right of conscience’ protections to mental health professionals in the state. Right now, physicians can opt out of certain services if the services go against their religious beliefs in South Carolina.
According to Kimbrell, this bill would prevent licensed therapists and counselors being banned from providing ‘conversion therapy’.
He said, “This allows where no doctor is forced to choose between their principles or a paycheck.”
Supporters of the bill, like Palmetto Family Council President and Executive Director Dave Wilson, said cities should not be getting involved in decisions left up to parents.
“It is not the responsibility of the city of Columbia to decide what type of therapy is in your purview,” Wilson told the subcommittee.
Critics said the legislation will have an impact far beyond mental health. Phil Ford with the South Carolina United for Justice and Equality said his group opposes the bill.
Ford said, “A bill that would take healthcare away from any South Carolinian for who they are and frankly risk lives for a myriad of reasons.”
Vicki Ringer with Planned Parenthood South Atlantic said she doesn’t understand why the bill was given priority. She said it won’t have a positive impact on anyone, “It’s taking a sledgehammer to something that happened in the city of Columbia that you object to. There are too many problems facing our country and state in health care right now.”
The subcommittee did not take any action on the bill Monday. Subcommittee Chairman Sen. Shane Martin said they will hold more meetings on this legislation in the summer.
Columbia is the first and only city in South Carolina to ban ‘conversion therapy’ for minors.