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SC bill allows mental health professionals to refuse care based on beliefs

Published: Jun. 21, 2021 at 9:38 PM EDT|Updated: Jun. 21, 2021 at 11:48 PM EDT
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CHARLESTON, S.C. (WCSC) - South Carolina lawmakers are considering a new bill that would allow mental health professionals to deny care based on their beliefs.

The bill, sponsored by Sen. Josh Kimbrell of Spartanburg, would be an update to an existing law that allows doctors and health care providers to refuse non-emergency procedures based on their religious, moral, ethical, or philosophical beliefs.

It would extend those protections to therapists, psychologists, and licensed counselors.

The bill is considered a response to an ordinance the city of Columbia passed, which bans conversion therapy for minors.

Opponents of the bill believe it will allow professionals to discriminate against people, especially those in the LGBTQ community. They also believe it will make access to mental health care, more difficult.

Melissa Moore, the Lowcountry manager for the Women’s Rights and Empowerment Network, says the bill is harmful, as well as broad, and far sweeping.

“It would allow anyone at any level at any time in health care to deny care to a person, so you can imagine what that might look like. For example, a person who needs COVID-related care can be denied that care because they are gay,” Moore said. “We hope our legislators will vote no on this bill and that it will allow people to pay more attention to what’s happening in the legislature, and we need to push our elected officials to do things that help our constituents instead of harming them.”

On Monday, the Senate Medical Affairs subcommittee held a hearing on the bill.

Kimbrell started the hearing with an explanation of what the bill will do. He says the bill is not an attack on anybody.

“If someone wants to come out and have a medical practice or mental health practice that affirms LGBTQ youth that is absolutely allowed and legal. No one is after that, I’m not after that,” Kimbrell said. “What has happened is we have seen efforts by cities to ban anybody who disagrees with that particular viewpoint and that’s, in my view, a violation of the first amendment.”

Supporters who spoke during the hearing say the bill protects free speech and gives parents the right to choose the care for their child.

Lawmakers are hoping to hold another subcommittee hearing later this summer.

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