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SC Senate OKs bill to expand belief protections for medical professionals

The bill would allow healthcare providers to opt out of providing care that violates their conscience or religious beliefs.

COLUMBIA, S.C. — South Carolina Senators advanced a bill Tuesday that would allow health care providers to opt out of of providing procedures that would violate their religious beliefs. 

The bill, known as the “Medical Ethics and Diversity Act,” would “authorize medical practitioners, health care institutions, and health care payers not to participate in health care services that violate the practitioner’s or entity’s conscience.”

That includes health systems, clinics, individual providers and insurance companies.

The bill, which was passed by the House last month, was put on special order in the Senate. Senators debated the bill for more than two hours before voting to pass it. 

“It's shocking to see the deputy director of the DHHS say that faith has no place in the clinic. That any kind of faith objection, conscious objection should be stamped out," said Senator Josh Kimbrell (R-Spartanburg).

Sen. Larry Grooms said the bill protects healthcare providers as well. 

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"We want to give immunity from losing your job, immunity from lawsuits for exercising your conscience," said Grooms.

Healthcare services that may go against personal beliefs include exams, abortions, giving out medications such as birth control, psychological therapy, or counseling. 

The law would not override federal law which requires health care providers to issue emergency medical treatment to patients. 

“Couldn’t this bill be harming the longevity of patients and not providing the with services that they need," said Sen. Vernon Stephens, who voted against the bill.

Critics such as Senator Margie Matthews call the bill unnecessary and worry about the unintended effects. 

“Your legislation as it stands, these hospitals will not have any idea when someone decides they ethically don’t want to provide a procedure," said Matthews.

The bill will now go back to the House before heading to the Governor's desk.

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