“Thanks for marriage, but we need healthcare”

In an article by Nicole Goodkind for Fortune, she discusses a bill that was signed by Ohio Governor, Mike DeWine, allowing medical providers and practitioners to deny treatment to LGBTQ+ patients based their moral or religious beliefs. And if that isn’t already shocking enough to hear, you’ll be even more disheartened to hear that the bill was signed around four months ago at the end of June.

For some, this might be considered “old news” and I am late to the game in feeling outraged over the discriminatory actions that have taken place in Ohio, but what angers me more is the fact that I am only hearing about it now. I consider myself to be pretty well-informed when it comes to current events and news regarding feminist and LGBTQ+ issues so I was very surprised coming across this particular article while reading through a sea of news covering the rallies and updates surrounding the abortion law being passed in Texas. In this moment, two thoughts came to my mind; When will we finally separate church from state? and Why was this bill being signed in Ohio talked about and covered less in the news compared to the abortion law in Texas? Both laws involve the government regulating people’s bodies and access to healthcare services, and both are feminist issues, so why does it seem like one is being talked and cared about more than the other? Like I said before, maybe this is “old news” or I am not as informed as I wish to be, but I personally can’t go anywhere without seeing or hearing something about Texas, and it took me four months to discover information surrounding a very similar and still very prominent issue that is plaguing Ohio.

Participants at the Trans Pride March on June 16, 2018 in Portland, OR, display a placard calling for stronger healthcare protections.  © 2018 Alex Milan Tracy / Sipa USA / AP Photo

To address the first thought I had while reading this article, it is important to first acknowledge the discrimination and long-hauled fight that women [including lgbtq+ women] and LGBTQ+ members of society have faced for years. Although these groups have faced different battles against discrimination, like women and the fight for the right to vote, or the LGBTQ+ community fighting for their right to legal marriage (despite this happening much later), common ground is shared when it comes to the fight for access to healthcare and an end to governmental control over people’s own bodies. So what I mean when I say we [the government/ society] need to separate church from state, is that we need to get rid of “Religious Refusal” laws that allow professionals in the medical field to deny services to people based on what their religious affiliation view as morally wrong. According to Planned Parenthood, some examples of Religious Refusal Provisions include:

  • A pharmacist could refuse to fill a prescription for birth control or antidepressants, or not administer a vaccine simply because of their own personal beliefs.
  • A hospital administrator could cancel a woman’s life-saving treatment for cancer because it might harm her pregnancy.
  • A transgender patient could be denied hormone therapy or emergency medical care, because their provider refuses to treat transgender people.

While these laws are not new, and Ohio is not the only state to have laws like this in place, seeing this happen in 2021 is a huge step in the wrong direction when it comes to healthcare equality, and the bottom line is that…

“These laws aren’t being used to protect the free exercise of religion. Instead, they allow religious and moral beliefs to be used as an excuse to discriminate against others.”

Planned Parenthood

Now onto the second thought that consumed my brain whilst reading the article by Nicole Goodkind. While I understand that the bill passed in Ohio differs from the abortion law in Texas, from a feminist perspective, it really baffles me how this issue was seemingly swept under the rug in comparison to other health-related news stories. Like I stated before, BOTH of these laws inhibit people from accessing healthcare services they need, so what makes one issue more important than the other? That’s the thing though, one issue is not more important than the other, it [the Ohio bill] is just being overshadowed due to the lack of intersectionality in feminism. It made me wonder if the reason that the Texas abortion law was getting more news coverage than the bill being signed in Ohio was because it more-so affects and relates to heterosexual women and couples.

As women, we face an inherent gender-bias in healthcare, and similarly so does the LGBTQ+ community. We are essentially fighting for the same cause, so it confuses me why some people think it is okay to advocate for women/ their health rights when it applies to them, but keep quiet when the issues do not directly affect them. It is important for women and those who identify as feminists to recognize that in the fight for equal rights, no progress can be made unless all women [no matter how they identify] are reaping the same benefits of change.

Ultimately, the lack of conversation surrounding this bill is a prime example of how ‘feminism’ at its core does not include all women, such as women of the LGBTQ+ community, and emphasizes the magnitude of discrimination against the LGBTQ+ community that is prevalent in society.

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