A new division was announced Thursday by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) Office for Civil Rights (OCR). Aptly dubbed “Conscience and Religious Freedom,” this new division is more divisive than many of us even have the ability to comprehend. Health care workers in violation of anti-discrimination protections will now be shielded from the consequences of denying care to tax-paying citizens.
The largest groups likely to be affected by the new rule will be minorities ranging from members of the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) community to women, people of color, and religious targets, such as Muslims. Patients living with HIV and AIDS will also likely be targeted under this new unit.
“But he held up a gay flag at a speech once,” they said.
“He will make America great again,” they said.
He also successfully completed a number of anti-LGBT actions within his first 100 days, including: rescinding critical Title IX guidance that affirmed the dignity of transgender youth; nominating Tennessee state Senator Mark Green to serve as Army Secretary — despite Green’s long track record of advancing anti-LGBT bills and saying transgender people have a “disease,” and indicating via the Department of Justice that it would no longer support a regulation banning discrimination against transgender people in health care.
For anyone paying close attention to what is being done (or undone as the case may be) versus what is being said for soundbites’ sake, this latest revelation should come as no surprise. Attorney General Jeff Sessions issued sweeping guidance in the fall that asserts federal agencies, employees, and government contractors should be allowed to refuse service based on their religious beliefs. A license to discriminate. It doesn’t get any clearer than that right there.
In a nutshell, this new rule has the potential to mean that if you’re visiting a cousin in Kentucky and suddenly get food poisoning, you could be refused treatment based on the color of your skin. It could mean that if you are a woman of child-bearing age and have an “oops” experience, you are not permitted to have an abortion. It could mean that a Muslim man who has a heart attack is denied treatment because of the practitioner’s religious beliefs — and then he dies. It could very well mean that an LGBT person with serious depression is denied care and sacrifices his own life because they didn’t receive proper medical attention.
These scenarios, although hypothetical, have a high probability of coming to fruition under this new ruling. Let’s put it bluntly: these minorities — these second-class citizens — have not been worth as much as the white straight men in charge since January 20, 2016.
The President of the United States of America is “making America great again” by instructing health care professionals to discriminate against his own people.
A 2017 study by the Center for American Progress showed that 29% of transgender people who’d attempted to see a doctor or other health care provider in the past year felt the professional refused to see them because of their actual or perceived gender identity. Additionally, 21% of transgender people reported that a doctor or other health care provider used harsh or abusive language when treating them. Nearly half of LGBTQ people living outside of a metropolitan area reported that should they be turned away from their hospital, it would be very difficult or impossible to access the same service elsewhere.
Fran Hutchins, Equality Federation Institute deputy director said, “We need protections from discrimination in the places we frequent in our everyday lives — from our morning coffee shop to our bus ride home, from a quick trip to the restroom at the mall to the annual trip to the DMV — because when LGBTQ people are able to live full lives and provide for themselves and their families, free from discrimination, our communities are stronger.”
Lambda Legal CEO Rachel B. Tiven also released a statement.
“It shocks the conscience that our government would invite healthcare providers to discriminate against their patients, but this is exactly what HHS’s new unit is designed to do,” Tiven said. “We know that people will be denied care as a result because discrimination against LGBT people is already widespread and LGBT people have already been turned away from hospitals and doctors’ offices. The Orwellian ‘Conscience and Religious Freedom’ unit simply provides guidance on how they can try to get away with it.”
But the time for statements is over. It’s time to do something. It’s time to save lives.