DeSantis signs new Florida law that protects the moral and religious beliefs of medical professionals and institutions

By Dave Andrusko

On Thursday Florida’s pro-life Gov. Ron DeSantis signed SB 1580, an important bill that protects doctors, nurses, and other medical professionals and organizations from being forced to participate in health care services, including abortion, that violate their conscience.

The law broadly defines a conscience-based objection as an objection “based on a sincerely held religious, moral, or ethical belief.”

The new law “forbids employers from taking adverse actions against employees who refuse to provide services based on a conscience-based objection,” Tyler Arnold reported. “This means the employee cannot be fired, suspended, or disciplined. …Institutions that provide medical services — as well as institutions and individuals who provide payments for health care services for others, such as employers — will also receive the same legal protections.”

“It is the intent of the Legislature to provide the right of medical conscience for health care providers and payors to ensure they can care for patients in a manner consistent with their moral, ethical, and religious convictions,” the legislation states. “Further, it is the intent of the Legislature that licensed health care providers and payors be free from threat of discrimination for providing conscience-based health care.”

Alliance Defending Freedom Legal Counsel Stephanie Nichols applauded SB 1580. “Americans shouldn’t be forced to violate their ethical and religious beliefs, and this certainly includes doctors, nurses, and other medical providers,” she said, “Thankfully, SB 1580 is a strong step in outlining comprehensive protections in Florida law for medical conscience and freedom of speech for medical providers.”

Nichols continued. “The legislation ensures that medical professionals aren’t compelled to breach their oath to ‘do no harm’ by being required to participate in procedures or treatments that violate their conscience. Forcing doctors, nurses, and other medical providers to choose between their faith or their profession will drive many from the workforce and lead to fewer health care options for patients at a time when our nation’s health care system is overstretched and experiencing a dire shortage of providers.’

Nichols concluded, “We’re grateful to Gov. DeSantis and the Florida Legislature for protecting free speech rights for medical professionals and the right for them to live in accordance with their ethical and religious beliefs as they offer their much-needed services.”

Arnold noted that “The law forbids the Department of Health and licensing boards from taking disciplinary action against a practitioner for speaking or writing publicly about a health care service or public policy.”

The attorney general’s office will enforced the law. “If a person believes his or her rights have been violated under the law, they can file a complaint with the attorney general and are eligible for civil damages,” Arnold wrote. “Laws that require a practitioner to provide emergency medical treatment will still apply.”