North Carolina House Health Committee advances bill that would grant a “license to discriminate” to healthcare workers

Image that say Homophobia and Transphobia
Homophobia and Transphobia

The North Carolina House Health Committee voted last month to advance a bill that would grant a broad “license to discriminate” for a wide range of healthcare workers. 

The bill, HB819, would grant medical providers the ability to deny care and services to individuals based on their personal or religious beliefs. This has the potential to negatively impact LGBTQ people, women, people of color, and people of diverse faith backgrounds. 

“We are horrified to see HB 819 move forward, as it is a discriminatory violation of a basic human right,” Kendra R. Johnson, Executive Director of Equality NC said in a statement regarding the advancement. “Everyone deserves access to the healthcare they need, regardless of who they are or who they love. We will not reach lived equality if politicians continue introducing policies allowing doctors to discriminate or deny healthcare to anyone.”

The bill, which is so broadly defined, could allow doctors, nurses, receptionists and other employees to refuse to admit or offer services to patients in need of care in any non-emergency situation. This bill would also allow a “medical practitioner, health care institution, or health care payer” to discriminate against the LGBTQ community in their employment practices, as well as allowing insurance companies the ability to refuse to pay for care.

Many North Carolinians testified against the bill, including parents, medical providers, and transgender young people. They criticize the bill’s problematic vagueness, over-broad nature, and the myriad ways it would impact marginalized people, especially those who live in rural communities.

“No one should face discrimination because of who they are or who they love — and everyone should be able to access quality, affirming healthcare in their hometown,” Adam Polaski, Communications Director of the Campaign for Southern Equality said in a statement regarding the advancement.

“HB819 would allow virtually anyone who works in the healthcare field to claim a so-called ‘conscience’ objection to equally and fairly serving people in North Carolina. A receptionist could refuse to check in a patient receiving gender-affirming care,” said Polaski. “A pharmacist could refuse to fill a prescription for birth control, fertility treatment, or HIV medications like PrEP. A nursing home staffer could refuse to offer trans patients hormone therapy. This is so broad and so dangerous — and lawmakers must reject it.”

HB819 is now headed to the House Judiciary 1 committee.