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New HHS subdivision opens the door for discrimination

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Director+of+the+Office+of+Civil+Rights+Roger+Severino+believes+that+medial+care+providers+should+not+be+%22bullied%22+out+of+their+field+because+of+their+personal+beliefs.+Photo+courtesy+of+politico.com.
Director of the Office of Civil Rights Roger Severino believes that medial care providers should not be

Director of the Office of Civil Rights Roger Severino believes that medial care providers should not be "bullied" out of their field because of their personal beliefs. Photo courtesy of politico.com.

Photo courtesy of politico.com

Photo courtesy of politico.com

Director of the Office of Civil Rights Roger Severino believes that medial care providers should not be "bullied" out of their field because of their personal beliefs. Photo courtesy of politico.com.

   The Department of Health and Human Services’ (HHS) Office of Civil Rights has announced the creation of a new division, dubbed the “Conscience and Religious Freedom” division. Its purpose is to protect the right of medical providers to deny certain services based on religion or personal morals.

  Director of the OCR Roger Severino said in a press release, “America’s doctors and nurses are dedicated to saving lives and should not be bullied out of the practice of medicine simply because they object to performing abortions against their conscience.”

  Although, under the new rule set up by this division on Thursday, Jan. 18, it is unclear where the line is drawn between the right of refusal and plain discrimination. This seems true not only for women in need of safe abortions, but also for members of the LGBTQ+ community.

  In a study conducted by Lambda Legal, 56 percent of lesbian, gay, and bisexual people and 70 percent of transgender people have been harassed and treated negatively by medical providers (delmarvanow).

  Eight percent of LGBTQ+ people claim to have been denied service due to their identity. These statistics reflect a time of Obama-era legislation, which specifically protected the rights of transgender people, as well as those of other members of the LGBTQ+ community.

  Over the past eight years, only 10 religious complaints have been filed to the HHS department. However, by mid-January of this year, 34 complaints have already been filed. Severino credits the new administration for the increase in grievances, saying in a press release, “since the election of President Donald Trump and the change in tone, we’ve communicated to Americans that their rights will be respected.” He goes on to say that the spike in complaints proves that the issues are “real,” and with this new division, they will be taken more seriously.

  In truth, the 216-page document, “Protecting Statutory Conscience Rights in Health Care; Delegations of Authority,” which was released detailing the new proposed rules, does not mention the word “transgender” or the term “LGBTQ+” at all. However, organizations such as the Federation of Parents and Friends of Lesbians and Gays, Inc. (PFLAG) and Lambda Legal, who stand for LGBTQ+ rights, believe the new legislation opens the door to legal discrimination towards those groups.

  Lambda Legal’s acting legal director Camilla Taylor wrote in a statement, “the proposed rule doesn’t just protect health care institutions and medical providers who refuse care on religious grounds, it shields anyone who claims a ‘moral’ objection, too.” Taylor says this would allow healthcare providers to deny patients’ referrals and still be protected under the law.    

  PFLAG believes that LGBTQ+ members should be treated as a protected class and shielded from discrimination under federal, state, and local law, but the creation of this new division of the OCR goes directly against this belief. While the OCR claims it is allowing people to practice their “unalienable rights,” American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) Deputy Legal Director Louise Melling claims (after the news on Jan. 18) that, “this administration isn’t increasing freedom — they’re paving the way for discrimination.”

  It is upsetting to think that after years of progress and battles won in favor of the LGBTQ+ community, such as the legalization of same-sex marriage, that legislation is now being passed that will hurt, and even possibly endanger, a group many Americans have tirelessly fought to protect. 30 percent of transgender people say they have avoided or delayed going to the doctor when they were sick because they were afraid of discrimination (Lambda Legal).

  Allowing medical providers to deny patients in need of medical attention simply because they do not agree with their patient’s “lifestyle” is not only demeaning, but also puts the patient’s health at risk. If as a society Americans want to work towards equality, they need to focus more on the well-being of every American, not only heterosexual, cisgender Americans, and allow everyone to feel welcome at their next checkup.

 

   

 

For additional information, visit:   

 

https://www.cnn.com/2018/01/19/health/hhs-medicaid-abortions-conscience-protections/index.html

https://www.hhs.gov/about/news/2018/01/18/hhs-ocr-announces-new-conscience-and-religious-freedom-division.html  

www.hhs.gov/conscience.

https://www.cnn.com/2018/01/17/politics/conscience-protections-health-human-services/index.html

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New HHS subdivision opens the door for discrimination