Former President Barack Obama’s sweeping healthcare plan included one controversial rule making it illegal for doctors and hospitals to deny care or in any way discriminate against an individual based on that person’s gender identity or sexual orientation.
That rule has been scrapped by the Trump administration, which will instead limit the interpretation of sexual discrimination to the biological definitions of male and female, according to The Hill.
“The plain meaning of the word”
The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services issued a statement advising that the updated language is based on “the plain meaning of the word ‘sex’ as male or female and as determined by biology.”
Despite that change, the agency stressed that “the substantive protections prohibiting discrimination on the basis of race, color, national origin, disability, age, and sex remain in effect.”
While there has been a significant outcry from critics of the move, it is worth noting that the old rule had already been largely gutted. It was first blocked from enactment in 2016 and a federal judge further limited the language in 2019, declaring the rule unconstitutional.
Nevertheless, activists for the transgender community are expressing concern that healthcare providers will use this new rule as a license to discriminate against a group of people. Roger Severino, the director of the HHS Office for Civil Rights, provided a follow-up statement meant to reassure those critics.
“HHS respects the dignity of every human being, and as we have shown in our response to the pandemic, we vigorously protect and enforce the civil rights of all to the fullest extent permitted by our laws as passed by Congress,” he wrote.
“Blatantly promoting discrimination”
As the Washington Examiner reported, though, some Democratic lawmakers are joining in on the backlash against HHS Secretary Alex Azar.
Sens. Patty Murray (D-WA) and Ron Wyden (D-OR) penned a letter to Azar expressing their displeasure with the announcement.
“At a time when protecting communities from the COVID-19 pandemic is paramount, your Department and the Trump Administration are knowingly putting the health and wellbeing of vulnerable individuals and children at risk, while blatantly promoting discrimination against LGBTQIA+ communities and religious minorities by pursuing the finalization of this proposed rule,” the senators wrote.
Conservative groups including the Heritage Foundation are praising the update, though, with research fellow Ryan Anderson saying that the Obamacare mandate “would have required doctors, hospitals, and health care organizations to act in ways contrary to their best medical judgments, their consciences and the physical realities of their patients.”
As this revelation makes clear, the Trump administration is not yet finished rolling back what the president believes were the mistakes of his predecessor.