On Thursday, Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis signed into law legislation that ensures medical professionals and institutions that provide health care cannot be forced to violate their moral, ethical, or religious convictions. 

The new law forbids employers from taking adverse actions against employees who refuse to provide services based on a conscience-based objection. This means the employee cannot be fired, suspended, or disciplined. A medical practitioner must provide his or her employer with written notice of any conscience-based objection. 

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.”

Such objections could include abortions and sex changes but are not limited to that. The law broadly defines a conscience-based objection as an objection “based on a sincerely held religious, moral, or ethical belief.”

The legislation further provides free speech protections to medical practitioners. 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.

Alliance Defending Freedom Legal Counsel Stephanie Nichols spoke in favor of the legislation. 

“Americans shouldn’t be forced to violate their ethical and religious beliefs, and this certainly includes doctors, nurses, and other medical providers,” Nichols said in a statement. “Thankfully, [this bill] is a strong step in outlining comprehensive protections in Florida law for medical conscience and freedom of speech for medical providers.”

The new law will be enforced by the attorney general’s office. 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.

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Laws that require a practitioner to provide emergency medical treatment will still apply.