The Trump administration wants to implement a rule that would allow health workers to deny care to transgender people who want to transition, on the grounds that doing so violates their religious beliefs. The new rule will also shield health care workers who don’t want to perform abortions.
According to Politico, the new regulation will equip The Department Of Human Health Services’ (HHS) civil rights office with new powers to protect workers who commit conscience violation i.e. refusals to carry out a medical procedure because of religious or moral beliefs. It could also be used to discipline organizations that refuse to allow workers to act on their beliefs.
But LGBT activists are concerned that the new rule could strengthen discriminatory attitudes against patients who identify as members of the community.
“This is the use of religion to hurt people because you disapprove of who they are,” Harper Jean Tobin of the National Center for Transgender Equality told Politico.
The new rule, which has been under wraps at the HHS until now, could go into effect this week. If implemented, it will create a new division in the HHS which will be responsible for its enforcement.
As Politico notes, the current head of the HHS, Trump’s pick, Roger Severino, has previously expressed that safeguards for conscience violators needed to be bolstered. During the Obama administration, these protections, established during George W. Bush’s presidency, were scaled back. Now that Trump is in office, there’s been a push to restore them.
— Trans Equality (@TransEquality) January 15, 2018
The buzzword “religious freedom” is becoming a hallmark of Donald Trump’s time in office. President Trump issued a proclamation yesterday that would make January 16 Religious Freedom Day. But last year, Trump discarded an Obama-era tradition of proclaiming June as LGBT Pride month, Pink News reports.
Trump’s Solicitor General, Noel Francisco, has also said that businesses should have the right to hang signs that discriminate against gay people on their premises, Newsweek reports. He made this declaration to The Supreme Court as the justices heard arguments in the Masterpiece Cakeshop v. Colorado Civil Rights Commission case. In this case, baker Jack Phillips refused to bake a cake for a gay couple because he said that it goes against his religious beliefs. Francisco said that Phillips had the right to clearly state that he doesn’t custom make cakes for gay weddings because that’s part of his individual creative expression which is protected by The Constitution’s First Amendment.