Health and Education, Policy Updates

WREN Testimony in Opposition to S.811 

by WREN Staff on Jun 22, 2021

As prepared for Senate Medical Affairs Subcommittee hearing on June 21, 2021.

Thank you, Chairman Martin, and members of the subcommittee, for the opportunity to testify today. My name is Ann Warner and I am the CEO of the Women’s Rights and Empowerment Network (WREN). WREN is a nonpartisan, nonprofit organization with a mission to build a movement to advance the health, economic well-being, and rights of South Carolina’s women, girls, and their families.  

On behalf of our organization, I ask committee members to vote NO on S.811. 

S.811 is a dangerous and far-reaching bill that permits any person participating in health care service to deny care to individuals for any reason, without a medical justification. South Carolina would be creating a health care system where patients’ health needs come second to health care workers’ personal beliefs. No one should be denied health care because of the personal beliefs of a person working in a health care facility, hospital, or pharmacy.  

This sweeping legislation provides no patient protections, leaving people vulnerable to the whims of any health care worker, as long as the health care worker deems the basis of their refusal of care to be a reason of “conscience.”  

A health care worker who refuses to treat does not have to ensure that the patient has comprehensive information about their health status, diagnosis, or prognosis. They can refuse to provide a referral and fail to ensure that patients get needed care elsewhere.  

Patients may not get the care they need, either because they cannot find a health care provider in a timely fashion or because they avoid treatment for fear of discrimination. The health consequences of such a sweeping law could be catastrophic on an individual and societal level. 

South Carolina already has extremely poor indicators when it comes to healthcare access and healthcare outcomes.  

By creating more barriers to care, this legislation would send all of these indicators in the wrong direction. And it will have a disproportionate negative impact on women, LGBTQ people, people living in rural parts of the state, and their children. 

Broad conscience refusals mean that healthcare workers could refuse to provide care to anyone, but the most severe impact would be on women, LGBTQ people, their families, and others who already face barriers to health care.  

In some areas of the state, where there is a lack of healthcare providers, if one person refuses treatment, there may be no alternative source of care available. 

Some examples of how people could be denied care include: 


We are just beginning to emerge from the worst pandemic in a century, which has taken the lives of more than 8,600 South Carolinians and upended our economy and our educational system. WNow is the time to invest the resources of the General Assembly into fortifying our health care system so that our population is healthier and more resilient – we should not be devising new ways to polarize our communities and pit patients and providers against each other. Let’s do all we can to support our health care workers and the people who rely on them so that we can advance the health and dignity of ALL.  

Please vote NO on S.811. 

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