Over the course of his two-and-half-year tenure, our alleged President Donald Trump has either enacted or enforced policies that make no secret as to where he stands on transgender and LGBTQ issues.
Barely a month after taking office, his administration rescinded guidelines that protected transgender students under federal Title IX law. In 2017, the Department of Justice determined that transgender workers weren’t protected by the Civil Rights Act of 1964; and earlier this year the Supreme Court allowed his transgender military ban to go into effect—and that’s just the tip of the iceberg.
So the news that the Department of Health and Human Services has expressed its intentions to roll back Obama-era healthcare protections for transgender people isn’t exactly surprising, but it doesn’t make it any less revolting.
The health department is rewriting an Obamacare regulation that barred health care discrimination based on sex. The Obama administration had issued a rule asserting that the provisions covered gender identity, but a federal judge blocked those protections in 2016 following a lawsuit from religious groups.
The new rule says HHS will repeal the Obama-era definition of sex protections in order to make its regulations “more consistent” with other agencies.
“When Congress prohibited sex discrimination, it did so according to the plain meaning of the term,” Roger Severino, HHS director of the Office for Civil Rights, said, according to the Washington Post. “We are making our regulations conform.”
For those keeping track at home, this would be the third time this week that the Trump administration has proposed stripping the transgender community of protections. On Tuesday, the Trump administration proposed allowing healthcare workers to recuse themselves from treating transgender patients on religious grounds, and on Wednesday, it was announced that the administration is considering changing a law that would give homeless shelters the authority to turn away transgender people.
“HHS should be in the business of ensuring that people get the health care they need, not providing excuses for providers and insurers to turn people away,” Diana Flynn, the litigation director for Lambda Legal, said. Her organization specializes in supporting LGBTQ rights.
The National Center for Transgender Equality has expressed its disgust, as well.
“It’s about the right of every American to be treated with dignity when they walk into an emergency room, meet a new doctor, or find the right insurance plan,” Mara Keisling, the executive director of NCTE, said. “If permitted, this rule will promote ignorance and hate that no American should have to face while seeking care.”
Religious conservatives within the Trump administration have made a calculated effort to diminish transgender protections by explicitly defining gender. In doing so, they often cite the Religious Freedom Restoration Act or the Administrative Procedure Act as justification.
Severino noted that by revoking transgender healthcare protections the administration will be spared of “unnecessary regulatory burdens” and would save as much as $3.6 billion in regulatory costs over the next five years.
The public will have 60 days to comment on the proposal before HHS decides to move forward on finalizing the rule.