A proposed rule under review at the White House would create a new division of conscience and religious freedom division inside the Health and Human Services Department (HHS) that would allow healthcare providers to opt out of treating patients or offering services that go against their moral and religious beliefs such as performing abortions or working with LGBT patients.
The rule was drafted in December and only released publicly today. This represents a rollback of policies put in by former President Obama and shift away from the HHS’s current focus on maintaining and enforcing federal civil rights and healthcare privacy laws. The newly created office will be a place for healthcare workers to lodge complaints against organizations that might force them to work against their beliefs and ensure that those healthcare facilities that employ them will support their decision to refuse care.
This rule presents a conflict of ethics and the Hippocratic oath in the healthcare profession, according to Ben Brown, a gynecologist-obstetrician in Chicago and a fellow with Physicians for Reproductive Health. He told the Washington Post, “Imposing their values on a patient is not in consort with our professional job as doctors.”
“In Detroit, a child was denied care by her pediatrician because her parents are LGBTQ,” Pride at Work Executive Director, Jerame Davis, said in a statement. “Nationwide, 29% of transgender people report being refused service due to their actual or perceived gender identity. …the HHS OCR was established to prevent these sort of discriminatory practices.”
Prior to the proposed rule, over 450 major companies are extending protections for their trans employees including health coverage for gender identity based medical care. However, it’s still challenging and often dangerous to be out at work. Earlier last year the Justice Department rolled back protections for LGBTQ workers and it’s still legal to fire someone for being gay or transgender in 28 states.