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California bans travel to Ohio over law protecting religious freedom of healthcare professionals

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California and United States flags |

California's Attorney General has barred state employees from traveling to Ohio using taxpayer dollars over its enactment of a law that he characterized as "anti-LBGTQ+."

California's Democrat Attorney General Rob Bonta announced Friday that beginning on Sept. 30, "California will restrict state-funded travel to Ohio as a result of new anti-LGBTQ+ legislation recently enacted in the state."

In a statement, Bonta's office alleged that provisions in Ohio House Bill 110 "will allow medical providers in the state to deny care to LGBTQ+ Americans, including Californians traveling in Ohio." 

House Bill 110, the state's budget for fiscal years 2022 and 2023, contains the Medical Ethics and Diversity Act. 

The legislation, which Republican Gov. Mike DeWine signed into law earlier this year, includes a provision declaring that "a medical practitioner, health care institution, or health care payer has the freedom to decline to perform, participate in, or pay for any health care service which violates the practitioner's, institution's, or payer's conscience as informed by the moral, ethical, or religious beliefs or principles held by the practitioner, institution, or payer." 

The bill noted that the "exercise of the right of conscience is limited to conscience-based objections to a particular health care service."

While House Bill 110 did not give specific examples of a "health care service" that might violate a medical practitioner's conscience, the Center for Christian Virtue, a socially conservative advocacy organization that supported the legislation, elaborated on its implications.

In a blog post, the advocacy group contends that the law "ensures doctors and medical professionals cannot be forced to perform medical procedures that violate their conscience or religious beliefs."

"This means, for instance, that doctors cannot be forced to perform abortions or prescribe dangerous puberty-blocking drugs to children for 'gender transitioning' if doing so goes against their conscience," the blog post states.

"It also allows insurance companies to create insurance plans for organizations and businesses in line with their religious beliefs, resolving the issue an order of nuns called The Little Sisters of the Poor have faced for writing a plan that didn't include abortion coverage."

While the Center for Christian Virtue praised the MED Act for protecting the "religious freedom of medical professionals," the law's approval did not sit well with California's top law enforcement official.

"Blocking access to life-saving care is wrong. Period," Bonta said. "Whether it's denying a prescription for medication that prevents the spread of HIV, refusing to provide gender-affirming care, or undermining a woman's right to choose, HB 110 unnecessarily puts the health of Americans at risk." 

Bonta argues that House Bill 110 "runs afoul of Assembly Bill 1887," a California state law requiring the California Department of Justice to take action against states that "discriminate against LGBTQ+ Americans" by placing them on a "state-funded travel restrictions list."

With Ohio as its latest addition, the Golden State has banned state-funded travel to 18 states because of "anti-LGBTQ+" legislation. 

The other states are Alabama, Arkansas, Florida, Idaho, Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky, Mississippi, Montana, North Carolina, North Dakota, Oklahoma, South Carolina, South Dakota, Tennessee, Texas and West Virginia.

In a statement, the Center for Christian Virtue described Bonta's ban on state-funded travel to Ohio as "great news" because the bill "is keeping California bureaucrats from coming to our great state!"

The organization accused Bonta of "lying and fear-mongering about the bill" and concluded that "no matter the reason, I think most Ohioans would agree it's a net gain for our state for California bureaucrats to stay put."

In some cases, healthcare providers have been forced to participate in procedures that violate their deeply held beliefs.

A hospital in Vermont forced a Catholic nurse to participate in an abortion despite her opposition to the procedure and the availability of other nurses without such objections to assist with the abortion. The Trump administration filed a lawsuit against the hospital, which the Biden administration dropped

The Biden administration has interpreted the Affordable Care Act to require medical practitioners to perform gender-transition procedures regardless of any objections they may have. Several lawsuits soon followed, including one filed against the Department of Health and Human Services from two associations representing 3,000 medical professionals and an individual doctor. HHS is currently led by Xavier Becerra, who preceded Bonta as California Attorney General. 

In August, a federal judge appointed to the bench by former President George W. Bush struck down the so-called "transgender mandate" as unconstitutional, siding with a network of Catholic hospitals in Texas that filed a separate lawsuit. 

Ohio is not the only state to pass legislation designed to prevent medical practitioners from participating in procedures that violate their conscience. Arkansas passed similar legislation earlier this year.

Ryan Foley is a reporter for The Christian Post. He can be reached at: ryan.foley@christianpost.com

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