The Trump administration has announced the formation of a new division of the Office of Civil Rights that will allow discrimination against LGBTQ people.
In announcing the change on Thursday, January 18, the HHS released a statement that characterizes this decision as "restoring" protections for religious people. "The Founding Fathers knew that a nation that respects conscience rights is more diverse and more free, and OCR's new division will help make that vision a reality".
Goss, who also serves on the Southern Baptist Convention Executive Committee, noted that he never felt the need for heightened conscience protection in his own medical practice, but he expressed appreciation for the creation of the new HHS branch because it "could be important for physicians" who refuse to perform procedures such as abortion and gender transition for conscience reasons because they regard it as "elective and perhaps even destructive".
The proposed rule comes one day after the creation of the Conscience & Religious Freedom Division with the HHS Office for Civil Rights, which has been panned as a tool for enabling the kind of denial of services enabled in the religious freedom rule. "No one should be forced to choose between helping sick people and living by one's deepest moral or religious convictions, and the new division will help guarantee that victims of unlawful discrimination find justice", OCR director Roger Severino said in an announcement about the new division.
Medical groups have recognized the negative effects refusal laws can have on patients and have called for patient protections when religious refusals may compromise care. "HHS is open for business and ready to protect religious freedom". Severino certainly doesn't, according to that 2016 co-authored article: "Gender identity and sexual orientation, unlike race or sex, are changeable, self-reported, and entirely self-defined characteristics".
The Minnesota Nurses Association has come out against the new Health and Human Service opt out pathway.
Planned Parenthood blasted the latest move, saying it takes an end-run around elected lawmakers and would deny critical services to women who use their clinics because they can not get health care elsewhere.
Women's rights groups are also concerned that this decision could undermine abortion-related care, something that could dramatically impact the scant abortion services remaining across the country.
The language of the 216-page proposal is geared more toward allowing medical providers to deny abortion-related services on the basis of religious objections, but it contains broad language allowing for exemptions for any reason as well as code words critics say are meant to deny LGBT people medical services. Those efforts were stopped when the previous administration sent a letter to all 50 states claiming that defunding Planned Parenthood would put them at odds with federal law. Today is one year since President Trump took office and he has already become the most pro-life president in history.
The moment marked the president personally stepping to the forefront of the anti-abortion movement in the United States as the anniversary of his inauguration approaches.
As many religious leaders have pointed out, the US does not have a problem with religious protections, which are guaranteed as part of federal statute and as a matter of free speech under the First Amendment.
Jack Ende, president of the American College of Physicians, said the second-largest US doctors group "would be particularly concerned if the new HHS division takes any actions that would result in denial of access to appropriate healthcare based on gender, gender identity, sexual orientation, race, ethnicity or other personal characteristics".
This is grossly harmful in every sphere, but it is perhaps has the most venom in health care where people are already vulnerable, especially for those dealing with mental health issues surrounding their identity or pregnancy. "It's meant to facilitate federally funded health care providers denying service not just to LGBT people, but to women and other vulnerable groups".