President Donald Trump has struck at another policy of former President Obama and his administration and Democrats are furious.
The president finalized a rule on Friday that was celebrated by many in the religious community as it “overturns Obama-era protections for transgender people against sex discrimination in health care,” The Associated Press reported.
The Department of Health and Human Services said it will enforce sex discrimination protections “according to the plain meaning of the word ‘sex’ as male or female and as determined by biology.” This rewrites an Obama-era regulation that sought a broader understanding shaped by a person’s internal sense of being male, female, neither or a combination.
LGBTQ groups say explicit protections are needed for people seeking sex-reassignment treatment, and even for transgender people who need care for common illnesses such as diabetes or heart problems.
But conservatives say the Obama administration exceeded its legal authority in broadly interpreting gender.
“Under the old Obama rule, medical professionals could have been forced to facilitate gender reassignment surgeries and abortions — even if they believed this was a violation of their conscience or believed it harmful to the patient,” Mary Beth Waddell of the Family Research Council said.
But the American Medical Association disagreed with the decision by the president.
“Respect for the diversity of patients is a fundamental value of the medical profession and is reflected in long-standing AMA policy opposing discrimination based on race, gender, sexual orientation, gender identity or a woman’s decisions about pregnancy, including termination.,” group president Dr. Susan Bailey said.
“The federal government should never make it more difficult for individuals to access health care—during a pandemic or any other time.”
Last year the AMA said “This proposal marks the rare occasion in which a federal agency seeks to remove civil rights protections. It legitimizes unequal treatment of patients by not only providers, health care organizations, and insurers, but also by the government itself—and it will harm patients. Such policy should not be permitted by the U.S. government, let alone proposed by it.”
But the administration and Health and Human Services said that the Obama administration did not have the authority to make the changes.
“All of these are essentially legislative changes that the Department lacked the authority to make,” it said. “They purported to impose additional legal requirements on covered entities that cannot be justified by the text of Title IX, and in fact are in conflict with express exemptions in Title IX.”
HHS responded to those who criticized the possibility that an individual would be denied care if they are transgender.
“For example, in the unlikely event that a healthcare provider were to deny services to someone based solely on his or her political affiliation, the Department would not be able to address such denial of care under Section 1557,” it said. “Unlike other bases of discrimination, the categories of gender identity and sexual orientation (as well as political affiliation) are not set forth in those statutes.”
“The 2016 Rule risked masking clinically relevant, and sometimes vitally important, information by requiring providers and insurers to switch from a scientifically valid and biologically based system of tracking sex to one based on subjective self-identification according to gender identity,” it said. “…The 2016 Rule’s mandate cannot answer, for example, how a provider is to determine whether or when a transgender individual is entitled by law to be referred to a women’s mental health support group, a men’s mental health support group, either group, or both at the same time.”