COLUMBUS, Ohio (WCMH) — The City of Columbus is suing the State of Ohio over what’s known as the “Conscience Clause.”
The clause passed last year as part of the state’s biannual operating budget, and it allows people working in health care to refuse to provide a treatment or service that’s against their religious beliefs.
Columbus City Attorney Zach Klein argues the Conscience Clause violates laws on the state, local and federal levels. The lawsuit asks a Franklin County judge to invalidate the law.
“We believe that the Conscience Clause violates several provisions of the Ohio Constitution,” Klein said. “A couple of them are the Single Subject Rule, the ability of the city to collectively bargain, home rule provisions that allow cities to govern themselves, and we also believe that it violates provisions of the Affordable Care Act under federal law.”
The Single Subject Rule provides that a law can only contain a single subject.
Asked why the Conscience Clause was in the state budget, Yost told NBC4, “It goes to the money, and the regulation, that the state brings to the healthcare system. Look, the largest provider financially — the largest payer for health services — is the State of Ohio.”
The lawsuit argues that the Conscience Clause could wrongfully interfere with the city’s collective bargaining agreements by impacting what’s covered by the employees’ health insurance and where employees can receive the care they want or need.
“We’d rather be proactive about this to ensure that we strike this law off the books, and that no patient or employee in the City of Columbus or any– any patient across the State of Ohio ever has to go and be concerned that their health care provider has an ulterior motive or a hidden agenda in the way they’re going to provide treatment,” Klein said.
Yost argues the Conscience Clause should stand because it addresses individual religious freedom, enshrined in the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution. He said the lawsuit was, “Not well-founded at all. It borders on the frivolous.”
The Attorney General said he does not believe this law stands between anyone and their access to care.
“If one nurse does not want to participate in an abortion procedure because of her conscience, there is another one who will be able to step in. The same with all other health care providers,” Yost said. “This notion that this is somehow exclusionary is absolutely absurd. What it does do is protect individual rights of conscience.”
Both attorneys pointed out their good working relationship with one another during separate interviews with NBC4.
“(I’m) hoping a lot more that we will work together,” Yost said. “But we’re gonna fight like dogs on this one.”
Yost said the state is currently working on its response to the lawsuit .