Today the Trump Administration announced that they will be overhauling the Health and Human Services (HHS) civil rights office as part of a broader plan that will allow health workers to refuse treatment to patients based on religious or moral objections. In other words, this new division will allow medical providers to deny abortion and other critical health care services for LGBTQ people and people living with HIV when they have moral objections.
Existing refusal laws already allow health care providers to put their religious beliefs before patient care. The proposed rule would expand those laws in harmful new ways. The LGBTQ community as well as people of color, interracial couples, women, minority faiths, people with disabilities, and others could be at great risk.
Under the revised rule, the civil rights office would be able to further shield these workers as well as punish organizations that don’t allow employees to express religious and moral objections. This is a major shift for the office, which until now focused on enforcing federal civil rights and health care privacy laws. LGBTQ community centers continually work to overcome stigmas and discrimination, and this policy will significantly increase the time they spend helping individuals find alternative care.
According to a recent Center for American Progress survey, LGBTQ people face disturbing rates of health care discrimination, including harassment and denials of care, and often avoid doctor’s offices out of fear of discrimination. The freedom to practice one’s religious beliefs is a mainstay of our Constitution, but it should not be used to deny competent medical care to anyone or as a justification for discrimination, sexism, intolerance, or racism.