The Department of Health and Human Services finalized a regulation that would encourage discrimination against trans people seeking healthcare.
Under this new rule, medical providers and insurance companies that receive federal funds would have the right to refuse care if they felt that provision of such care would violate their "religious beliefs or moral convictions." The regulation, published on the HHS' website Thursday, repeatedly mentions abortion and sterilization -- something that can result from hormone replacement therapy and certain gender-affirming surgeries -- as examples of care that might violate a provider or insurer's religious beliefs.
"In an attempt to justify more discrimination against transgender people, [the Department of Health and Human Services] minimizes the very real pain exemptions like these have caused transgender people," a spokesperson for the National Center for Transgender Equality tells Out.
Trans people already face an incredible amount of discrimination when seeking medical care. One third of the people who participated in the NCTE's 2015 survey on trans Americans reported that they'd had at least one negative experience with a healthcare provider in the past year related to their trans status -- such as verbal harassment or refusal of treatment -- and more than half of those who'd sought coverage for a transition-related surgery in the past year said that they'd been denied coverage by their insurers. Negative experiences don't prevent people from medically transitioning, but they do push trans people to seek out such care in more dangerous, unregulated markets.
"We're confident this rule will make the lives of transgender people across this country harder," the NCTE spokesperson continues. "No one should have to check the religious affiliation of a hospital in order to make sure they can get the care their doctors have prescribed them. Religious liberty is a bedrock principle for all Americans -- including transgender people -- but this regulation is a perversion of that principle."