New rules allow 'faith-based' discrimination, seek to erase Trans protections
by Mike Andrew -
SGN Staff Writer
Lambda Legal, Americans United for Separation of Church and State, and the Center for Reproductive Rights filed a lawsuit on May 28, charging that the federal Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) was illegally fostering discrimination against LGBT patients and women in the provision of health services.
The three groups are representing Trust Women Seattle, Hartford GYN, Whitman-Walker Health, the Bradbury-Sullivan LGBT Community Center, the Los Angeles LGBT Center, the Center on Halsted, the Mazzoni Center, GLMA, the Association of Gay and Lesbian Psychiatrists, Medical Students for Choice, the County of Santa Clara, and several private physicians.
The case, County of Santa Clara vs. HHS, challenges new Trump administration regulations allowing health care providers to claim personal religious or moral beliefs as a reason to refuse service to LGBT patients and women seeking abortions or contraceptive care.
Health care facilities that do not comply - in other words, those that require doctors, nurses, EMTs, and other medical staff to treat every person who presents themselves - could be denied federal funding. This is the exact opposite of the policy under the Obama administration.
Plaintiffs in the lawsuit say that the new rules will cause mass confusion among health care providers and are completely infeasible to implement. As a result, health care facilities may do away with reproductive and LGBT services altogether, leaving millions without access to critical health care.
The new rules are unconstitutional, the plaintiffs continue, because they advance specific religious beliefs in violation of the First Amendment; violate patients' rights to privacy, liberty, and equal dignity as guaranteed by the Fifth Amendment; and chill patients' speech and expression in violation of the First Amendment, all to the detriment of patients' health and well-being.
The lawsuit also says that HHS violated the federal Administrative Procedure Act in creating the rule by arbitrarily and capriciously failing to consider the impact on patients.
'This denial-of-care rule will have disastrous public health impacts,' Lambda Legal's senior attorney, Jamie Gliksberg, said in a statement.
'Lesbian, gay, bisexual, and particularly transgender people all face significant barriers to care; this proposed rule is clearly aimed at restricting health care for LGBTQ people and women seeking reproductive health care.
'We're already receiving reports of targeted discrimination, whether it's gay men facing harassment at dialysis clinics for receiving HIV-related care, or transgender youth being misgendered by hospital workers in their most vulnerable moments of need. Our lawyers have heard dozens of these heartbreaking, traumatic testimonials from our clients.'
Rules on Trans patients
Among the new HHS rules is one that proposes eliminating gender identity as a protected class in health care and government policy. The new rule would reverse protections in the Affordable Care Act made by the Obama administration in 2016 that protected gender identity under the category of 'discrimination on the basis of sex.'
The Trump administration is proposing that the term 'sex' should now be open to interpretation by individual health care providers, thus removing specific protections for Trans people.
'This proposed rule is yet another outright attack from the Trump administration on the health, well-being, and survival of transgender people,' Kris Hayashi, executive director of the Transgender Law Center, said in a statement.
'Everyone should be able to go to the doctor when we need help without being turned away or denied treatment because of who we are. That's what the law says, yet in practice, many transgender people still face devastating discrimination in health care.
'This rule dangerously encourages illegal discrimination, putting the lives of transgender people in jeopardy - particularly for trans people living with HIV, black transgender people and people of color, trans people with disabilities, and rural and Southern trans folks.'
Mara Keisling, executive director of the National Center for Transgender Equality, added, 'This is not about free health care or special treatment. It's about the right of every American to be treated with dignity when they walk into an emergency room, meet a new doctor, or find the right insurance plan.
'If permitted, this rule will promote ignorance and hate that no American should have to face while seeking care, and we are ready to fight it with everything we've got.'
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