In light of the new "religious freedom" act in Indiana, I was wondering if healthcare providers can deny treatment based on personal religious beliefs? I live in a small town in a state with one of these laws and I'm worried about identifying myself as transgender in case I am denied treatment :( or is there some "medical law/code" where healthcare providers are required to treat all patients?
UGHHHHHHH this act sucks so hard.
So, the Indiana Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA) basically says that no one can force you to act against your religious beliefs. There are lots of laws like this is in states across the country, however, this one goes above and beyond.
Basically, almost every single other RFRA specifically excludes for-profit businesses, meaning that if you’re not a church or religious organization, you do not have the right to refuse service to someone due to your religious freedom. That makes it so that gay people, for example, cannot be refused services in businesses that are otherwise unreligious, like a restaurant.
This RFRA includes for-profit businesses. Additionally, it has a specific clause saying that those business are protected from legal action from the government AND from civilians. That, in turn, means that not only could you walk into a restaurant and be refused service because you’re there with your wife, but you also don’t have the right to sue anyone about it.
This is really shitty. AANNNNDDDD……the wording of the bill is so vague that it COULD, theoretically, be used to support healthcare providers refusing care to their patients.
Additionally, the Indiana State Board of Medicine Ethical Policy states:
VI. A physician shall, in the provision of appropriate patient care, except in emergencies, be free to choose whom to serve, with whom to associate, and the environment in which to provide medical care. [x]
So that basically means that unless you come in to the hospital mid-emergency, they have the right to refuse you care. So what can you do about it?
- Depending on how comfortable you are and how many options you have, when you call up the clinic to make an appointment by saying, “Hi, I’m a transgender woman hoping to get an appointment. Is that okay with you?” or “Will that be okay?” From there you can know ahead of time, at least, which clinics are best to go to.
- You can always wait to disclose until your 2nd or 3rd visit, once you have a sense of the provider that you’re seeing.
- Google the practices ahead of time to see if they’re particularly religious and see what their website (if they have one) says in their mission statement.
I really believe it is truly important for your health that you disclose everything to your provider, but I also understand how difficult that can be. Not only because society sucks in general, but healthcare providers can wield a lot of power over you, and that’s not something you want to mess with.
You definitely do not have to worry about them sharing your status with anyone else, at the very least that is protected by HIPAA (privacy laws).
I wish I had something better to tell you, but things really suck right now. I’m sorry. Good luck and happy Trans Day of Visibility! (I know, I know, worst timing, right?)