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  • Carolyn Mish

Anti-LGBT Legislation in Healthcare

By: Carolyn Mish, Contributing Writer

Edited by: Olivia Storti, Editor; Name, Editor in Chief

Access to inclusive and supportive healthcare is vital to any individual’s physical and mental health. For marginalized groups such as the LGBTQ+ community, these resources are even more integral to a happy and healthy life. Glaring disparities exist within these communities, from adolescent mental health struggles and violence prevention, to the prevention of HIV’s spread. The ability to visit a supportive healthcare team who can help an individual make informed decisions about their health should not be a luxury; yet for many members of the LGBT community in America, it has become just that.

Legislators and lawmakers in southern US states have been limiting LGBT rights for decades - restricting transgender people’s ability to transition and present as their gender identity, permitting the discrimination of LGBT-identifying people in workplaces, blocking gay couples from being legally married, and preventing gay couples from adopting children are just some of the steps being taken by anti-LGBT policy makers to inhibit members of the community. The field of healthcare is no exception to the assault on access to resources for LGBT people. One of the methods that lawmakers and organizations use to intentionally exclude and marginalize LGBT people are “religious exclusionary laws”.

To put it simply, religious exclusionary laws make businesses, doctor’s offices, and hospitals exempt from treating people if it violates their religious beliefs or “conscience”. In practice, this can be detrimental to LGBT people everywhere. Healthcare and mental health facilities are now able to deny services to people purely based on their identity. Mississippi HB 1523 passed in 2016, and both Indiana’s SB 101 and Florida’s HB 401 were signed into law in 2015. These bills have been introduced and created for years, and their implications for LGBT people can be deadly. Religious freedom cannot be conflated with freedom to discriminate against LGBT people. These bills are in direct opposition to the Civil Rights Act.

While it may seem like an easy solution to this problem is seeking care from secular, accepting doctors, that is no easy feat. In a system that legally rejects and stigmatizes marginalized identities, the public health implications of these bills are harrowing. Lesbian and bisexual women are more likely to skip yearly cervical cancer screenings due to fear of discrimination and distrust of healthcare professionals. Bisexual and gay men are at an increased risk for HIV and AIDs, and a lack of available STD testing and safe sex resources can increase this risk even further. Transgender people who need support with their transition, whether that be from a physical or mental health perspective, are placed at risk when denied this support. When a community has increased rates of suicide, bullying, and interpersonal violence, access to supportive healthcare resources is a must-have. Giving exclusionary facilities the right to deny people of these resources is deeply dangerous.

What can be done? More and more of these bills pass every day, and while individual campaigns spring up to counteract them the trend continues. How can people support comprehensive healthcare and also access these resources themselves?

Resources online outline accepting healthcare locations by area. Understanding how to navigate the healthcare system is a necessary burden, and can help individuals access what they need. Additionally, if someone experiences unlawful discrimination from a healthcare provider, they can report it using this link.

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