Ohio’s FY 2022-23 biennial budget bill contained a short set of provisions, now codified at R.C. 4743.10, that empower medical practitioners to refuse to participate in providing any health care service if doing so would violate their moral, ethical, or religious beliefs. The law similarly allows health insurers to refuse to pay for treatment on these grounds. Health care providers who deny treatment are not required to transfer a patient to another provider for treatment. Providers who exercise their right to deny treatment cannot be subjected to any civil, criminal, or administrative liability. If their employer takes any adverse action against them for denying treatment to a patient, the statute gives the provider a civil cause of action against the employer.
The conscience law was inserted into the budget bill in late June by State Senator Terry Johnson, with no public hearings or floor debate. The provision is not related to the budget; its only potential budgetary impact is a token appropriation, found in a separate section of the budget, of up to $5,000 to create “a brochure” to educate the public about the new law itself. The law took effect on September 30, 2021.
Equitas Health is a nonprofit mission-driven healthcare provider that seeks to ensure a high standard of care for members of the LGBTQ+ community in Ohio. This law adversely impacts its operations by restricting its ability to ensure care for its patients, and by forcing Equitas Health to spend resources on legal compliance analysis and public communications.
The passage of this law by inclusion in the budget bill violates Ohio’s “single-subject” rule. In addition, the law is unconstitutionally vague.
On April 29, 2022 we filed a Complaint in the Franklin County Court of Common Pleas on behalf of Equitas Health against the State of Ohio and Governor Mike DeWine. A similar action was brought in the same venue by the City of Columbus days earlier. On May 12, we moved to consolidate the two cases. The motion was granted on May 27. Defendants answered the complaint on June 1.