Under Trump, Health and Human Services Department Creates Office to Promote Discrimination
This morning, the Department of Health and Human Services announced a new division in its civil rights office that will handle issues of “conscience and religious freedom.” Despite its misleading name, the division, and a pending regulation that it will likely be tasked with implementing and enforcing, appear designed to promote discrimination against LGBTQ people and anyone else a health care provider disapproves of.
NCTE Policy Director Harper Jean Tobin made the following statement:
Freedom of religion is important to all of us. That’s why it’s already protected by the Constitution and by federal law. What the Department of Health and Human Services is doing is creating a new division just to discriminate against LGBTQ people and anyone else a provider or hospital official doesn’t like.
HHS appears ready to create sweeping, dangerous exemptions to patient protections that would encourage doctors, hospitals, paramedics and other medical providers to pick and choose which patients they will and won’t treat, and who does and doesn’t get life-saving medical care. That makes a mockery of the principle of freedom of religion we all cherish.
LGBTQ patients are already turned away by providers because of who they are—or even because of who their family members are. One-third of respondents to the U.S. Transgender Survey (who tried to get health care in the year before the survey) were turned away or mistreated by providers. The parents of a little girl, not even a week old, were told by a doctor that she wouldn’t treat their child because the parents were lesbians. We hear from patients who say that a doctor or nurse didn’t want to treat them or even touch them. Health care providers need to be dissuaded from discriminating against their patients, not encouraged to do so.
The nation’s major medical and mental health associations have weighed in time and again – including just last November—against this kind of prescription for discrimination, because it hurts patients. Yet the Trump administration is barreling ahead regardless.