The Michigan Senate’s Committee on Health Policy has approved a bill that would protect health care professionals who wish to discriminate against the LGBT community. Under the guise of “religious liberty and conscience protection,” Senate Bill 975 would allow health facilities to refuse to provide any health care service for any reason of “conscience,” which includes “religious beliefs, moral convictions, or ethical principles”:
A health facility may assert as a matter of conscience an objection to providing a health care service and may decline to provide a health care service that violates its conscience pursuant to this section. If a health facility asserts as a matter of conscience an objection to providing a health care service under this section, the health facility shall apply that objection equally to all patients that it serves, subject to this act.
The bill waives any civil, criminal, or administrative liability for the facilities that choose to discriminate, so no legal recourse would be possible. Instead, it guarantees damages for any person who is forced to violate their “conscience.” It also dictates that no public official or entity can deny aid or grants to a facility that discriminates based on conscience, which means that if same-sex recognition changes in Michigan, the state would remain obligated to financially support agencies like Catholic Charities, even if they refuse to serve same-sex couples, as transpired in Illinois.
Should SB 975 pass, any doctor or medical professional could refuse to provide any service — be it an abortion, HIV treatment, or even a basic check-up for a gay or trans patient — and the employing facility would be prohibited from taking action against the employee. Given members of the LGBT community already face severe health inequities, including basic access to care, this bill could exacerbate an already dire situation. Health policy should protect patients, not doctors’ “moral convictions.”