In what can only be described as the next step in Florida’s crusade to completely erase and demolish the rights of LGBTQIA+ individuals, Governor Ron DeSantis has officially signed the ‘Protections of Medical Conscience’ bill.
On Thursday 11 May 2023, DeSantis, who has single-handedly helped to crush the legal and medical protections of queer US citizens, pushed forward a piece of legislation which enables medical professionals and for-profit insurers to deny patients care based on religious, moral or ethical reasons or beliefs.
2023 has already become one of the most insidious years in regards to the rights of the LGBTQIA+ community, and this recent bill will only further endanger them. As reported by PinkNews, legitimate concerns have been raised by activists and other medical professionals across the US that Senate Bill 1580 could be used to deny care to queer people, if a healthcare provider holds bigoted views about the community.
According to DeSantis however, the passing of this bill will ensure “medical freedom of speech for physicians by allowing doctors to follow data, not political agendas.” The so-called politician went on to state: “Florida rejects penalising physicians who dissent from the official narrative.”
One Twitter user, who has been publically referring to the bill as the ‘Let Them Die Act’ stated that the legislation was already having a major impact. Alejandra Caraballo alleged that one trans person had died after EMTs refused to treat them after a car accident.
Not only is the bill itself incredibly pointed and seeped with homophobic undertones, it’s also incredibly vague. The idea of a ‘conscience-based objection’ is highly complex and, as so many conservative political footballs are these days, it can and most likely will be used specifically to refuse the medical treatment of trans individuals—a community that has faced ruthless discrimination in the South and across the entire country over the past decade.
The situation has escalated to such a point that human rights group Equality Florida has begun issuing travel advice to any LGBTQIA+ individuals planning on going to the Southern state.
Nadine Smith, Equality Florida’s executive director, stated that as an organisation which works to improve Florida’s reputation for LGBTQIA+ equality, that it was with “great sadness” that they had to issue the travel advisory.
Some of the other scathing bills recently passed in Florida include: the highly controversial ‘Don’t Say Gay’ bill which restricts educators from teaching students about sexual orientation and gender issues, with teachers opening themselves up to lawsuits should they fail to comply and the ‘Safety in Private Spaces’ act which would make it a misdemeanour trespassing offence for someone to use certain bathrooms that don’t align with their sex at birth. There have also been a number of anti-drag bills passed in the South.
While activism targeted towards revoking and fighting against this swathe of legislation remains strong, it’s becoming increasingly difficult to break away from DeSantis’ own “official narrative” which is, of course, that the LGBTQIA+ community must be eviscerated. What’s even more concerning is that it looks more likely every single day that the Florida Governor might be the winning Republican candidate for the 2024 Presidential elections…