Florida bill gives doctors the right to refuse treatment to LGBTQ+ people, women and minorities

Florida governor Ron DeSantis wears a suit and tie as he speaks with his mouth wide open. The red and white stripes of the US flag can be seen in the background

Florida is reportedly considering a bill that would give doctors and insurance companies the right to deny care to LGBTQ+ people.

HB1403 would allow healthcare providers to refuse to treat or pay for the treatment of people based on “conscience-based objections without… threat of adverse actions”. 

Critics of the bill have expressed fears that doctors could claim they have religious, moral or ethical objections to treating LGBTQ+ patients, or providing medical care such as birth control. 

The bill also provides doctors and insurance companies with legal protection for their objections, and doesn’t require them to refer their patients to another doctor, NBC2 reported.

However, the bill includes an amendment making it clear that it does not apply to emergency medical treatment.

Members of the Florida House Health and Human Services Committee voted to approve the bill on Monday (10 April), and it will now reportedly head to the full house for consideration.

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Speaking to reporters on Monday, house Democratic leader Fentrice Driskell branded the bill dangerous and discriminatory. 

“This would allow a healthcare provider or insurer to deny medical care to a patient based on religious, moral or ethical opinions,” she said. “You can imagine how this could be weaponised against the LGBTQ+ community, but could also be abused against abortion, contraception… or any medical procedure.

“This is dangerous, it’s discriminatory, it’s not well thought-out, and will make Floridians’ already-expensive healthcare worse in terms of quality.”

LGBTQ rights supporters protest against Florida Governor Ron Desantis outside a "Don't Tread on Florida" tour campaign event.
LGBTQ+ activists protest against Florida governor Ron Desantis, who passed the “Don’t Say Gay” law. (Giorgio Viera/AFP via Getty)

The bill is just one in a slew of anti-LGBTQ+ measures that have battered Florida in recent months, with a ban on gender-affirming care for trans young people passing, and a ban on public drag performances being considered.

HB1403 comes one year on from Florida’s infamous “Don’t Say Gay” law being passed, banning discussion of LGBTQ+ identities in most classrooms – legislation that activists fear could be in place for decades. 

In a statement blasting Florida’s legislature for banning gender-affirming care, the Human Rights Campaign (HRC) said: “Florida lawmakers have no shame. 

“This discriminatory bill… is a cruel effort to stigmatise, marginalise and erase the LGBTQ+ community, particularly transgender youth.

“The Human Rights Campaign strongly condemns this bill and will continue to fight for LGBTQ+ youth and their families who deserve better from their elected leaders.”

The HRC claims it is tracking more than 470 anti-LGBTQ+ bills being advanced across the United States in 2023 alone.

“More than 190 of those bills would specifically restrict the rights of transgender people, the highest number of bills targeting transgender people in a single year to date,” the HRC said.