Religious liberty or Religious Discrimination
Under the guise of upholding religious freedom, the Trump administration has been working on creating a new division of the Office of Civil Rights that could make it lawful for healthcare professionals to deny care to particular groups of people on the basis of the healthcare worker’s religious beliefs. Obviously, this sort of policy would directly affect LGBTQ individuals who are frequently targeted with discrimination of this kind.
In March of 2017, President Trump appointed the recognized anti-LGBTQ rights activist Roger Severino to head the Department of Health and Human Services’ Office of Civil Rights, a man who in his previous position as Director of the DeVos Center for Religion and Civil Society, a department of the conservative Heritage Foundation, persistently spoke out against civil rights protections for the LGBTQ community. In a recent Heritage Foundation Report co-authored by Severino statements were made severely undermining progress for the rights of transgender people. One section of the report read:
“On the basis of religious teaching, moral reasoning, scientific evidence and medical experience, many have strong grounds to hold that one’s sex is an immutable characteristic. Many involved in providing medical care and those enrolled in health insurance plans have serious objections to participating in or paying for sex-reassignment surgeries or gender transitions.”
This sort of patronizing rhetoric is an insulting blow to transgender people’s dignity and LGBTQ pride.
The Trump Administration’s intentions for Severino’s Office of Civil Rights goes beyond denying a transgender person the right to transition. Disturbingly, it allows medical providers discriminating under the umbrella of religious freedom to deny any sort of care they want. In the Bush-era similar rules allowed healthcare professionals to deny medical care based on their religious beliefs. These rules were used to justify an ambulance driver’s refusal to transport a transgender woman to the hospital. The woman died before receiving medical attention.
It is already common practice for administrations at Catholic-affiliated hospitals to forbid doctors from offering abortion services. The changes to the Office of Civil Rights currently in motion could embolden religiously affiliated hospitals and individual medical professionals who would deny care based on their religious ideals to broaden their scope of discrimination. These discriminatory practices could be expanded and the government will protect healthcare providers who participate in these acts. Such health care providers would be guarded against professional consequences or legal reprisal.
To put into perspective how significant this course of action really is and how far-reaching religious discrimination in hospitals could potentially be, consider that in 2016, 1 out of every 6 hospital beds in the country were in Catholic Church-affiliated facilities. The amount of Catholic-owned hospitals has grown 22% since 2001. That percentage continues to rise as the Catholic Church purchases more hospitals and jockeys politically to serve their agenda, which for lack of a better understanding perhaps on my part is discriminatory in its very nature.