Florida Governor Ron DeSantis on Thursday signed a set of bills into law that he said would protect the “medical freedom” of Floridians. The bills, which were passed by the Republican-controlled state legislature last month, ban mask and vaccine mandates, and create new conscience protections for health providers.
DeSantis, a potential 2024 presidential contender, has made “medical freedom” a key issue in his political career. He has repeatedly criticized the Covid-19 vaccines, calling them “experimental” and “unnecessary.” He has also opposed mask mandates and other public health measures, arguing that they infringe on individual liberty.
The bills signed by DeSantis on Thursday include the following provisions:
- Bans on mask and vaccine mandates for businesses and government entities.
- Protections for health providers who refuse to provide care on the basis of conscience objections.
- Prohibitions on “gain-of-function” research, which is research that could potentially create new viruses that could be used as bioweapons.
The bills signed by DeSantis on Thursday are part of a broader effort by Republican-led states to roll back Covid-19 restrictions. In recent months, several states have passed laws banning mask mandates in schools and businesses, and some have even prohibited vaccine requirements for healthcare workers.
The bills have been met with mixed reactions. Public health experts have warned that the bills could lead to an increase in COVID-19 cases and deaths. They argue that mask mandates and other public health measures are effective in preventing the spread of the virus. They also worry that the bills could discourage people from getting vaccinated, which could lead to more severe cases of Covid-19.
Supporters of the bills argue that they give individuals more control over their own health care decisions. They say that people should not be forced to wear masks or get vaccinated if they do not want to. They also argue that the bills protect the rights of health providers who have religious or moral objections to providing certain types of care.
The new laws also create new conscience protections for health providers. These protections allow providers to refuse to provide services that violate their religious or moral beliefs, but the law fails to define what makes up “moral” or “ethical” beliefs. Critics of the provisions have argued that they could be used to justify discrimination against patients, particularly women and members of the LGBTQ+ community.
In related news, DeSantis is currently in the early stages of what looks to be a long legal battle against Disney, Florida’s biggest tax payer and largest local employer, after the entertainment giant opposed DeSantis’ so-called “Don’t Say Gay” law, which restrict the teaching of gender and LGBTQ+ issues in Florida schools.
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