Conscience clause a concern for Ohio’s LGBTQ youth mental health care

Orion Hower is waiting until they move to Michigan for college before seeking mental health care.

Hower, who is nonbinary and uses they/them pronouns, has been in the mental health care system since they were 10 years old. When Hower turned 18, they said it was difficult and exhausting to look for a therapist in Ohio who both affirmed their gender identity and accepted their insurance.

“Ohio is my home and it always will be my home,” Hower, now 19, said. “But it’s not worth it if it’s going to be sacrificing my own well-being and mental health in order to live under the guise that I am a cis person.” “Cis” refers to cisgender, meaning a person’s gender identity matches the sex they were assigned at birth.

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Orion Hower, 19, who is nonbinary and uses they/them pronouns, personally experienced barriers to mental health care in Ohio. They were photographed at a home in the Clintonville neighborhood of Columbus on Friday, July 30, 2021.

Hower said the conscience clause has only strengthened their resolve to wait. 

The conscience clause, signed by Gov. Mike DeWine on July 1 as part of Ohio’s state budget, allows medical providers to refuse to perform specific services if they violate their religious, ethical or moral beliefs. 

Osteopathic physician and state Sen. Terry Johnson, R-McDermott, introduced the amendment to the budget last-minute, without any public hearings. In a statement to the Dispatch, Johnson said “there is much more to the art and science of healing than blind subservience” and medical providers’ conscience and moral compass require protection.