Gag Order Laws Threaten Nursing Education and Health Equity

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Since 2021, some state legislators have passed laws that limit what public institutions can teach about discrimination. The number of these laws, also called gag orders, is increasing despite a national outcry against racism, homophobia and transphobia, and other forms of discrimination. Many nursing and other professional healthcare organizations have recognized and published statements decrying racism in healthcare and calling for an increased focus on health disparities and advancing health equity. Similarly, national research institutions and private grant funders are funding health disparities research. Nursing and other faculty in higher education, however, are being gagged by laws and executive orders which prevent them from teaching and conducting research about historic and contemporary health disparities. This commentary seeks to highlight the immediate and long-term impact of academic gag orders and to encourage action in opposition of such legislation. Supported by professional codes of ethics and discipline-specific education, we present concrete activities readers can use to address gag order legislation and in doing so, protect patient and community health outcomes.