The Trump administration is looking to overhaul the Department of Health and Human Services to give it more leeway in protecting healthcare workers who refuse to perform abortions or treat LGBT patients due to moral objections, according to a report from POLITICO.
The overhaul also seeks to punish organizations that prohibit healthcare workers to use their religious beliefs as a reason to deny treatment. The Democratic National Committee slammed the move as unethical.
“It wasn’t enough to try to strip transgender Americans of their right to serve, roll back access to birth control, and attempt to defund Planned Parenthood. Now Trump, Pence, and their Republican cronies want to allow health care workers to discriminate and rip away access to medical care. This rule is unethical and dangerously undermines public health,” DNC Director of Women’s Media Elizabeth Renda and Director of LGBTQ Media Lucas Acosta said in a joint statement.
The pending rule, which could be released as soon as this week, has been described to POLITICO as establishing a new division of the HHS civil rights office that would conduct compliance reviews, audits and other enforcement actions to ensure that health care providers are allowing workers to opt out of procedures when they have religious or moral objections. The new division would be a third, co-equal branch with the office’s existing two divisions that focus on federal civil rights laws and the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act.
The office would also conduct outreach and technical support to help others who are seeking to strengthen protections for workers with religious and moral objections to certain procedures.
As POLITICO points out, the head of the civil rights division at HHS has even seemingly endorsed the moral objection argument. In a 2016 Heritage Foundation report, Roger Severino wrote that according to “the basis of religious teachings, moral reasoning, scientific evidence, and medical experience, many have strong grounds to hold that one’s sex is an immutable characteristic.”
“Many involved in providing medical care and those enrolled in health insurance plans have serious objections to participating in or paying for sex-reassignment surgeries or gender transitions,” he continued.
This isn’t the first time HHS has taken action that falls in line with abortion opponents and anti-LGBT interest groups. Last year the agency “solicited and selectively published comments” that endorsed its overhaul of Obama-era regulations that protected transgender patients.
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