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Columbus city attorney files suit over Ohio's 'medical conscience' clause

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A lawsuit has been filed targeting legal protections granted to health-care providers in Ohio that allows them to deny treatment that they oppose on the basis of their conscience or religious beliefs.

Columbus City Attorney Zach Klein on Wednesday sued the state over the measure known as the “conscience clause.”

According to the law, a medical provider can be “excused from participating” whenever a treatment conflicts with a provider’s “moral, ethical, or religious beliefs or convictions.”

Opponents of the law say it could limit abortions or other medical care. The city also argues the measure violates Ohio’s Constitution and the federal Affordable Care Act.

Nurses employed by the city opposed to a medical procedure, “they can refuse it and we as a city can’t do anything about it,” Klein told The Columbus Dispatch. He also said insurance companies could refuse to pay for certain procedures, and “that obviously causes significant problems for our employees.”

Republican Gov. Mike DeWine kept the language of the law in place when he signed the 2021 budget. DeWine said the provision merely sets into state law what’s already being practiced.

In a statement, Attorney General Dave Yost called the lawsuit “meritless, anti-democracy and authoritarian.”