Published: Sun, May 26, 2019
Health Care | By Cedric Leonard

Trump Administration Takes Aim at Transgender Healthcare

Trump Administration Takes Aim at Transgender Healthcare

The Obama administration had proposed adding gender identity to the definition of discrimination based on sex, but the change was blocked in federal court.

The proposed rule will now be open to public comment for 60 days after it is published in the Federal Register.

UCLA legal scholar Jocelyn Samuels, who oversaw the drafting of the HHS transgender anti-discrimination rule under Obama, said that rule reflected established legal precedent that transgender people are protected by federal anti-discrimination laws.

HHS said that the proposal preserves certain protections from the 2016 rule, namely ensuring physical access to persons with disabilities to healthcare facilities and technology to assist visually or hearing-impaired individuals. Early in his first year, he reinstated the transgender military ban that the Obama administration had ended, despite opposition from his top military leaders, including former Secretary of Defense Jim Mattis.

The Trump administration has rolled back health care protections for transgender patients.

Two dozen USA states and municipalities sued the Trump administration earlier this week to stop the enforcement of the rule, which is nearly certain to be challenged in court.

"The actions today are part and parcel of this administration's efforts to erase LGBTQ people from federal regulations and to undermine nondiscrimination protections across the board", said Omar Gonzalez-Pagan, a lawyer at Lambda Legal, a civil rights organization for LGBT people.

The Supreme Court has agreed to hear a trio of cases related to discrimination of gender identity and sexual orientation in its next term, which would likely answer questions about the constitutionality of the 2016 regulation and this proposed rule, if it were finalized.

The HHS proposal is the third regulation to target protections for transgender people this week.

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Overall, the administration has moved to expand protections for businesses, including health care workers, to deny services if they feel it conflict with their religious beliefs.

"Sex is not subjective, it is an objective biological reality", Tony Perkins, president of the Family Research Council, said in a statement supporting the Trump administration's move. The office recently released a final version of a different rule that would expand the types of religious and moral complaints it would enforce, to protect individuals who may object to assisting in procedures like abortion or assisted suicide.

The proposal would reverse an Obama-era policy that protected gender identity and termination of pregnancy under non-discrimination protections. In its proposal, HHS argues that the change is necessary to bring Section 1557 into compliance with existing federal nondiscrimination laws, and to save money that would otherwise be spent providing health care to LGBTQ people, particularly transition-related care for transgender people. And 22% said they avoided doctors or health care for fear of being discriminated against.

"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", Hayashi said in a statement.

Last week, all three Republicans congressman in Mississippi's delegation voted against the Equality Act, which would have guaranteed LGBT people the same rights against discrimination that the 1964 Civil Rights Act guarantees people on the basis of sex, faith and race.

The proposed rule would apply to federally-facilitated and state-based health insurance exchanges created under the ACA, and the qualified health plans offered by issuers on those exchanges.

Severino said the proposed rule does not come with a new definition of a person's sex.

In a statement announcing the proposed rule change, HHS is oblique in describing what it would accomplish and strikes a positive note, asserting it would "maintain vigorous civil rights enforcement on the basis of race, color, national origin, disability, age and sex" and save US taxpayers $3.6 billion over the course of five years.

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