In the latest hindrance of civil rights advancement, today, January 18th, the Trump administration announced the creation of a new division in the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) to protect health workers who have “moral objections” to treating transgender patients or performing abortions.
According to Politico, this creation of this “conscience and religious freedom” division would enable the department’s civil rights office to punish organizations that don’t allow health care workers to deny care based on their personal beliefs.
A similar law was put in place under President George W. Bush. Known as the Weldon amendment, Bush’s rule prevented local governments funded by the HHS from punishing organizations that refuse to perform abortions. President Barack Obama repealed this amendment during his tenure in office.
The Trump administration changes are seen as an expansion of Bush’s policy. And some worry that under the new rules, doctors could deny same-sex couples fertility treatment, refuse to prescribe birth control, or stop a transgender patient from medically transitioning.
Both the Human Rights Campaign and American Civil Liberties Union said they would challenge the new proposal.
Unfortunately, the creation of the new HHS division doesn’t signify a change in the treatment of LGBTQ people in health care; rather, it codifies the experiences that many already had. The nonprofit organization National Women’s Law Center reports that 8 percent of homosexual and bisexual people and 27 percent of trans or gender-nonconforming people have been denied health care. And a November poll conducted by NPR, the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, and the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health found that 18 percent of LGBTQ Americans are scared to visit the doctor’s office because of the way they’re treated.
The Trump administration has also enacted discriminatory policies toward women and LGBTQ people in the past. In April, the president signed an executive order to allow states to defund Planned Parenthood. And in July, Trump attempted to ban transgender people from the military.
The new HHS division is a step backwards for civil rights. All patients, no matter their gender or sexual orientation, deserve to receive medical care. We stand by all those who are affected by the Trump administration’s changes.