HHS’ New Gender Policy Threatens Religious Liberty, Conscience Protections for Medical Professionals

HHS’ New Gender Policy Threatens Religious Liberty, Conscience Protections for Medical Professionals

The United States Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) announced May 10 that it will begin interpreting and enforcing both Section 1557 of the Affordable Care Act and Title IX’s prohibition of “sex discrimination” to include sexual orientation and gender identity.

“The mission of our Department is to enhance the health and well-being of all Americans, no matter their gender identity or sexual orientation,” said Dr. Rachel Levine, America’s openly transgender assistant HHS secretary. “All people need access to healthcare services to fix a broken bone, protect their heart health, and screen for cancer risk. No one should be discriminated against when seeking medical services because of who they are.”  

But opponents of the rule argue that the Biden administration’s real objective is to push LGBTQ ideology rather than improve patient care.

“Make no mistake, the policy announced by HHS … is not about ‘fix[ing] a broken bone’ or ‘screen[ing] for cancer risk,’” American Principles Project President Terry Schilling told The Daily Caller News Foundation. “No American was being denied access to these treatments for identifying as ‘LGBTQ.’ Rather, this policy is really about forcing hospitals and medical professionals to adhere to leftist ideology regarding sexuality and gender—and in particular to provide sex-change procedures to all comers, including children.”

In 2016, former President Barack Obama’s administration had redefined sex discrimination to include abortion and gender identity—defined as “one’s internal sense of gender, which may be male, female, neither, or a combination of male and female.” But the policy was never implemented due to litigation.

On June 12, 2020, under the Trump administration, HHS announced it would return to the government’s interpretation of sex discrimination “according to the plain meaning of the word ‘sex’ as male or female and as determined by biology.”

Yet the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision a few days later in Bostock v. Clayton County muddied the waters. In the 6-3 ruling, the court concluded that the definition of the term sex in Title VII of the 1964 Civil Rights Act does extend to sexual orientation and gender identity, even though neither category is specifically mentioned by the law, nor were they in legal view in the 1960s.

HHS said that this most recent policy update was “made in light of the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision in Bostock v. Clayton County.”

“This is bad for patients, doctors and religious liberty,” tweeted Luke Goodrich, an attorney with the religious liberty law firm Becket Law.

He argues that the new HHS rule would “punish doctors and hospitals if they won’t perform harmful gender-transition procedures against their conscience and medical judgment.”

“That is why, on Friday, we at Becket Law will be asking a federal court for a permanent injunction that protects patients, aligns with current medical research, and ensures doctors aren’t forced to violate their religious beliefs and medical judgment,” Goodwich added.

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