HHS Rolls Back Protections for Transgender People

It's the second rule this month the agency has put forward to allow healthcare providers to deny services to transgender individuals

It's the second rule this month the agency has put forward to allow healthcare providers to deny services to transgender individuals

Now, in a new proposal from the Department of Health and Human Services, the administration is attempting to undo Obama-era healthcare protections for LGBTQ+ people by changing the definition of what it means to discriminate "on the basis of sex". "The American people want vigorous protection of civil rights and faithfulness to the text of the laws passed by their representatives".

Two dozen USA states and municipalities sued the Trump administration earlier this week to stop the enforcement of the rule, which is nearly certain to be challenged in court.

The latest proposal would alter the government's definition of "Section 1557", which is the non-discrimination of the Affordable Care Act.

The proposed rule change is unlikely to have immediate consequences beyond the realm of political and legal debate.

Administration officials said the White House is weighing two options: either rescinding those rules altogether, or adding an explicit exemption for religious organizations. They've also made it possible for adoption agencies to reject same-sex couples and for homeless shelters to turn away transgender people.

The proposal by the Health and Human Services Department, subject to a 60-day public comment period before becoming final, has alarmed advocacy groups that say they are anxious transgender patients, in particular, could be denied care, particularly in less populated areas where services can be scarce.

"Fatima Goss Graves, National Women's Law CenterUnder the new proposed rule, the medical field would no longer be directed to take gender identity-defined by the Obama administration as one's "internal sense of gender, which may be male, female, neither, or a combination of male and female, and which may be different from an individual's sex assigned at birth"-into consideration and would instead recognize gender as tied only to physical characteristics at birth".

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"When Congress prohibited sex discrimination, it did so according to the plain meaning of the term, and we are making our regulations conform", Roger Severino, head of the Office of Civil Rights, said on a call with reporters.

Asked about the charge that the administration has opened the door to discrimination against transgender people seeking needed medical care of any type, Severino responded, "I don't want to see that happen".

The proposed new rule would also affect the notices that millions of patients get in multiple languages about their rights to translation services. Abortion opponents had argued that the Obama regulation could be construed to make a legal argument for federal funding of abortions. The Trump administration says the notice requirement has become a needless burden on health care providers, requiring billions of paper notices to be mailed annually at an estimated five-year cost of $3.2 billion.

HHS says that the change in regulations comes after federal court rulings that deemed the regulation "unlawful" and "contrary to the applicable civil rights law, the Religious Freedom Restoration Act, and the Administrative Procedure Act".

In 2016, an article co-authored by Severino was posted to the website of the right-leaning Heritage Foundation, where Severino at the time worked, slamming the Obama-era transgender protections. "This rule does not go in and tell people how to practice medicine".

Earlier this year, the Trump administration even tightened its definition of "biological sex" as based on a person's "chromosomes, gonads, hormones, and genitals".

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