Trump Administration Unveils Rollbacks on Health Care Protections for Transgender Patients

The Trump administration has proposed rolling back an Obama-era policy prohibiting health care providers from discriminating against transgender patients, the latest in the administration’s attack on federal protections for transgender people. The proposal was unveiled Friday, only two days after the Department of Housing and Urban Development moved to strike down protections for homeless transgender people by allowing federally funded homeless centers to discriminate and deny services to transgender people, and nearly a month after issuing rulings that allow medical professionals to deny care on religious or moral grounds.

The Department of Health and Human Services’ proposed rule would repeal Obama-era healthcare protections for LGBTQ+ people and change the definition of what it means to discriminate “on the basis of sex.” Under the Affordable Care Act, discrimination “on the basis of sex” includes gender identity, which the act defines as a person’s “internal sense of gender, which may be male, female, neither, or a combination of male and female, and which may be different from an individual’s sex assigned at birth.” This new proposal would make it so gender identity would no longer be protected under federal laws that prohibit sex discrimination in health care. The new proposal would also affect people who have had an abortion, as well as eliminating similar nondiscrimination protections for LGBTQ+ people.

This is yet another effort by this administration to limit or completely do away with LGBTQ+ federal rights. Omar Gonzalez-Pagan, a lawyer at Lambda Legal, an LGBTQ+ civil rights organization, said, “The Actions today are part and parcel of this administration’s efforts to erase LGBTQ people from federal regulations and to undermine nondiscrimination protections across the board.” By enacting this proposal, the Trump administration will be setting a precedence that would allow discrimination to grow, and potentially allow other groups of people to be denied care in the future.

With this proposal, the Trump administration seeks to rewrite the definition of sex to solely mean the biological sex assigned at birth. Medical providers would be allowed to deny hormones and surgery for transgender people transitioning, or just flat-out refuse to treat transgender people at all. Roger Severino, the head of the HHS Office for Civil Rights, claims that transgender patients would still be protected by other federal laws that prohibit discrimination based on sex. “Everyone deserves to be treated with dignity and respect,” said Severino. “We intend to fully enforce federal laws that prohibit discrimination.” However, the proposal would allow medical providers to discriminate based on what sex they think the patient should be, not what sex the patient is. For Severino to claim otherwise, that transgender people will still be protected, is disingenuous, since this proposal that he is overseeing aims to specifically take away those very protections.

I highly recommend reading through the twitter thread below to get a perspective on what happens when transgender people face discrimination by health care professionals.

The biggest supporters of this proposal are Christian conservatives closely allied with the Trump administration who believe doctors should be able to refuse to provide care if it violates their religious beliefs. If your job is to treat patients but you refuse to provide care to certain patients on religious grounds, maybe healthcare is not the career for you. Now, I personally am not a religious person so forgive my ignorance but refusing to treat a patient because of who they are doesn’t seem very godly or virtuous. It’s just simply cruel. This proposal put forth by the HHS would put the lives of transgender people at risk.

This is not the first time the Trump administration has gone after LGBTQ+ rights, and it won’t be the last. Even now, Trump plans to let adoption agencies reject same-sex parents. These are blatant attacks on all LGBTQ+ people and their civil rights, and the transgender community is arguably facing the worst of it. From this administration imposing a ban on transgender people in the military to allowing federally funded homeless shelters to turn away homeless transgender people, and now attempting to deny them medical treatment, the transgender community is facing a barrage of attacks from a government meant to protect them. Instead, they have a government fighting to co-sign their deaths. Politics aside, this is simply not how a human being should be treated.

(Image: Kena Betancur/Getty Images)