New Bill Could Allow Florida Doctors to Refuse Treatments for Women, LGBTQ Patients

A newly introduced religious freedom protection bill would allow Florida medical providers to legally refuse service on the grounds of "religious or moral convictions."

HB 401 – filed Wednesday by Florida Rep. Julio Gonzalez, a Republican from Venice – would allow health care providers to refuse to treat a patient or administer medication if the procedure is contrary to the "religious or moral convictions" of the facility or health care provider, according to the bill.

The bill would offer legal protection to nursing homes and assisted living centers, hospice facilities "owned or operated by a religious institution," ambulatory surgery centers and other medical providers, according to the draft.

If passed, any Florida health care provider could, in theory, refuse to prescribe birth control or perform abortions, citing religious or moral grounds.

HB 401 could also reasonably allow doctors to refuse treatment to patients who live in violation of the doctors' beliefs, as long as patients aren't in "imminent danger of loss of life or serious bodily injury," according to the bill.

This could potentially affect the treatment gay or lesbian patients receive, according to HT Politics, which said gay rights leaders consider the bill "one of the most discriminatory anti-LGBT measures in the nation."

The bill would shield providers from liability, protecting them from both lawsuits and disciplinary action on the part of their employers.

Gonzalez, the bill's sponsor and a licensed orthopedic surgeon, told HT Politics, "This is not about discriminating. This is about making sure the state stops, at a narrowly crafted level, from intruding into somebody's liberties."

The bill has yet to find a sponsor in the Florida Senate.

Read the full text of the bill.

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