Yesterday, the Trump administration finalized a rule allowing doctors, nurses, insurance providers, and employers to refuse service to LGBTQ people if it violates their religious beliefs. More technically speaking, they’re saying gender identity no longer counts under regulations dealing with sex discrimination.
Roger Severino, who (without irony) heads up the Office for Civil Rights at the Department of Health and Human Services, said Section 1557 of the Affordable Care Act would now limit sex discrimination to “male or female and as determined by biology” — which means trans people are out of luck.
All of this has been in the works since May of 2019.
Here’s what this will look like in practice:
Under the new rule, a transgender person could, for example, be refused care for a checkup at a doctor’s office, said Lindsey Dawson, associate director of HIV policy at the Kaiser Family Foundation. Other possible scenarios include a transgender man being denied treatment for ovarian cancer, or a hysterectomy not being covered by an insurer — or costing more when the procedure is related to someone’s gender transition.
BuzzFeed notes the rule will also allow religious health care providers to refuse abortion services.
There is quite literally no reason to do all this except (a) to be cruel to members of a vulnerable minority group, which Republicans love, and (b) to remind white evangelical Christians that their religious wishes can be granted if Trump remains in power.
HHS added another reason: the move would save “$2.9 billion in undue and ineffective regulatory burdens over five years”… which is pocket change for an administration that just this week announced that it would hide the recipients of $500 billion worth of bailouts.
It’s not about the money. It’s about making sure LGBTQ people suffer in order to make conservative Christians happy. Because those Christians, like every awful person who remains in the Republican Party, are despicable people.
Naturally, right-wing Christian groups are thrilled with this change:
“Health professionals know they must base medical decisions on biology and science, not ideology,” Dr. Jeff Barrows, the Christian Medical Association’s executive vice president for bioethics and public policy, said after hearing the announcement.
“We are hopeful that this rule will help steer consideration of gender issues in health care back toward science and away from politics and ideology, back to the protection of professional medical judgment and the freedom to adhere to long-observed ethical and moral standards.”
This is what evangelical Christianity is now known for: Inflicting cruelty upon the most vulnerable people. Jesus healed wounds; today’s conservative Christians cause them.
While this change is a long time coming, it’s even more poignant that it comes during Pride month, on the anniversary of the Pulse nightclub massacre, after Trump has repeatedly lied about being a friend to the LGBTQ community, and after Ivanka Trump pretended to embrace LGBTQ people.
“It is unconscionable that the Trump Administration is opening the door to discrimination against vulnerable groups at a time when they particularly need health care,” said Alison Gill, Vice President for Legal and Policy at American Atheists. “Not only are these people among the most hard hit by the pandemic, but they can now be denied essential health care simply because of who they are. The health and well-being of millions and millions of Americans is now even more at risk.”
“There could not be a worse time for the Trump Administration to rubber stamp discrimination,” added Gill. “When this rule goes into effect, health care providers will be able to deny treatment to people that desperately need it, based on their own religious beliefs, rather than the best interests of their patient.”
“The health care discrimination rule sends the message that unless you abide by Evangelical Christianity’s worldview on sexuality and gender, your life doesn’t matter,” said Nick Fish, president of American Atheists. “It’s just the latest attack on LGBTQ people by this administration under their distorted vision of religious liberty.”
“If a transgender patient walked into a hospital seeking treatment for COVID-19 — or any injury — this rule would allow doctors to turn them away without repercussions,” added Fish. “No matter what word games the Trump Administration wants to play here, it’s discrimination. Plain and simple. Saying I’m disgusted doesn’t even begin to describe my reaction to today’s announcement.”
Lawsuits are likely to come, but there’s another way out of this. Vote for Joe Biden in November. Let him put decent, sensible, not-cruel people in these Cabinet positions. Vote for Democrats to flip the Senate so that they can fix the problem legislatively.
Want to end the awfulness? Send the right-wing, conservative Christian Republicans who let all this happen into an early retirement.
Otherwise, white evangelicals will never stop hurting people. Politically speaking, it seems to be the only thing they care about.
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