COLUMBIA, SC (WSPA) – State senators voted to fast-track a bill that would expand the medical right of conscience law in South Carolina.

The legislation was set for special order and will be given priority when the Senate returns to Columbia Tuesday. H.4776 passed the House in March, the vote was mostly along party lines.

The ‘Medical Ethics and Diversity Act’ would allow a medical practitioner, healthcare institution, or healthcare payer to refrain from participating in or paying for any healthcare service which violates the practitioner’s or entity’s conscience.

Right now, the exception applies to doctors. Supporters of the legislation argue it should apply to every medical professional. During a House Judiciary Committee meeting earlier this year, Rep. John McCravy (R-Greenwood) said, “Times have changed. People are asking for procedures that were never thought of in the past. Some people can’t imagine. They feel like it’s necessary to protect them from doing these other procedures without getting into detail.”

Critics said the legislation isn’t necessary and it can be used to discriminate against the transgender community in South Carolina. Rep. Justin Bamberg (D-Bamberg) said, “This is a bill as I see it that targets certain people because some people don’t agree with their lifestyle or what’s going on.”

Last year, Senators filed a companion bill. This was in response to the City of Columbia banning the practice of conversion therapy for minors through a city ordinance. That bill and the House’s version say:

“The licensing and regulation of medical practitioners and the provision of health care services, as defined in Section 44-139-20, is expressly preempted by the State. A county, municipality, or other political subdivision may not adopt or enforce an ordinance, resolution, rule, or policy that restricts, limits, controls, directs, or otherwise interferes with the type and scope of health care services provided by a medical practitioner or the professional conduct and judgment of a medical practitioner when providing health care services.”

This means the state law would supersede any city ordinance.

There are three days left in the legislative session.