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HHS Dumps Conscience Protections

 Sex discrimination in health care to enter a new phase

The Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) has proposed a rule implementing Section 1557 of the Affordable Care Act (ACA) that will force health care professionals to perform procedures that go against their consciences and religious beliefs.

The rule would roll back limitations on the application of the ACA provision put in place under the Trump administration. The 60-day public comment period ended on October 3.

HHS says the rule will “prohibit discrimination on the basis of race, color, national origin, sex, age, and disability in certain health programs and activities.”

Expansive Definition

According to an informational bulletin by Alexandra Sumner, J.D., published by GoodRx Health on September 12, the proposed rule would expand the category of “sex” protected to include intersex traits, sexual orientation, gender identity, and pregnancy, and related pregnancy conditions, including its termination by abortion.

These changes are specified among the bullet points provided in the July release by HHS. These include “Aligns regulatory requirements with Federal court opinions to prohibit discrimination on the basis of sex including sexual orientation and gender identity,” and “Makes clear that discrimination on the basis of sex includes discrimination on the basis of pregnancy or related conditions, including ‘pregnancy termination.’”

Compliance Nightmare

The rule would implement major changes to training and paperwork requirements and could invalidate existing standard of care guidelines, the GoodRx Health bulletin reports.

“If successfully passed, the rule would require covered entities to effectively train employees on resources for individuals with disabilities,” Sumner writes. “They would also need to hand out Notices of Nondiscrimination. And they will also have to use clinical decision-making tools with caution.”

The term “clinical decision-making tools” refers to existing clinical algorithms “that may unintentionally discriminate against people of color and those with disabilities,” Sumner writes.
“[C]overed entities should revisit the algorithms behind them,” Sumner writes. “They should also figure out if any patient populations are being discriminated against and/or if the algorithm leads to any implicit biases. If found, the algorithm should be changed to remove the discriminatory effect. But it should be revisited on an as-needed basis.”

‘Transgender Mandate’

The rule represents an unscientific intrusion of a political agenda into critical health care decision-making and treatment, says Rachel N. Morrison, a fellow at the Ethics and Public Policy Center’s HHS Accountability Project.

“The proposed rule continues to push the Biden administration’s radical health equity, gender ideology, and pro-abortion policies,” said Morrison. “HHS is using nondiscrimination regulations to establish a medical standard of care even though there is no medical consensus over the proper standard of care for patients who have gender dysphoria or identify as transgender. The proposed rule imposes a transgender mandate by requiring doctors and hospitals to provide harmful and irreversible medical ‘gender transition’ interventions, including for children, in violation of doctors’ medical judgments, consciences, and oaths to ‘do no harm.’

“No medical professional should be forced to chemically sterilize or surgically remove healthy body parts from a patient, regardless of the patient’s subjective self-identification,” said Morrison. “The proposed rule ignores the legal requirement for abortion neutrality and purports to preempt conflicting state abortion laws.

Conscience Cancellation

The Biden administration intends to use this rule to force out medical professionals who refuse to perform these controversial forms of surgery, says Morrison.

“The proposed rule provides a sham process for those who have conscience or religious objections to its transgender and abortion mandates,” said Morrison. “HHS, under Biden and Becerra, has gratuitously disregarded the conscience and religious freedom rights of medical professionals, even refusing in federal court to disavow that it would use 1557 to require doctors to perform ‘gender transition’ surgeries or abortions in violation of their sincerely held religious beliefs.

“These mandates will drive up medical costs and drive out many qualified and caring students and professionals from certain fields of medicine or from the medical professional overall,” said Morrison.

Swift Pushback

Constitutional rights advocacy groups were quick to push back against the rule, including pro-life organizations and groups defending religious freedom.

The United States Conference of Catholic Bishops issued a July 27 press release stating, “Catholic health care ministries serve everyone, no matter their race, sex, belief system, or any other characteristic. The same excellent care will be provided in a Catholic hospital to all patients, including patients who identify as transgender, whether it be for a broken bone or for cancer, but we cannot do what our faith forbids. We object to harmful procedures, not to patients.

“Sadly, Monday’s proposed regulations threaten our ability to carry out our healing ministries, and others to practice medicine,” the statement said. “They mandate health care workers to perform life-altering surgeries to remove perfectly healthy body parts. Assurances that HHS will honor religious freedom laws offer little comfort when HHS is actively fighting court rulings that declared HHS violated religious freedom laws the last time they tried to impose such a mandate. This is a violation of religious freedom and bad medicine

Kevin Stone (kevin.s.stone@gmail.com) writes from Arlington, Texas


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Kevin Stone
Kevin Stone
Kevin Stone writes from Dallas, Texas.


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