Over 130,000 people reportedly urged the Trump administration not to rollback nondiscrimination protections in trans healthcare.
The public had until August 13 to weigh in on a proposal to eliminate protections on the basis of gender identity in Section 1557 of the Affordable Care Act (ACA), sometimes referred to as Obamacare. In 2016, the Obama administration clarified that the ACA's nondiscrimination guidelines forbid federally funded health care centers from discriminating against transgender patients.
But in May, the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) signaled its intent to curtail those regulations, claiming they "redefined" sex-based discrimination. It cited a December 2016 injunction issued by Texas judge Reed O'Connor preventing the trans discrimination rule from going into effect.
"Because the preliminary injunction continues to be in effect, HHS cannot, and has not since the date of the injunction, enforced the rule's provisions the court said are likely unlawful," HHS claimed in a press release issued at the time. "The proposed rule would revise the provisions subject to those injunctions to conform with the plain understanding recognized by the court."
Roger Severino, director of HHS's Office of Civil Rights (OCR), added that the White House was simply "making [its] regulations conform" to the "plain meaning" of discrimination on the basis of sex under the Civil Rights Act of 1964.
But according to the National Center for Trans Equality (NCTE), a total of 132,458 people voiced their disagreement with the Trump administration's stance on anti-trans discrimination. The nationwide advocacy group claims in a statement that the number of comments was "record breaking," calling it "more than any other regulation since Regulation.Gov was launched in 2003."
Mara Keisling, executive director of NCTE, says the unprecedented level of feedback on this "dangerous plan" cannot be ignored by the White House.
"We've heard from trans people sharing stories of prejudice at their moments of greatest need, family and friends advocating for the rights and safety of their loved ones, and doctors fighting for the good of public health," she says in a statement. "The Trump administration can never claim ignorance about the very real harm posed by this rule."
According to data compiled by NCTE, as many as seven in 10 transgender people say they've been turned away from healthcare providers based on their gender identity.
According to Human Rights Campaign President Alphonse David, that treatment is unacceptable. In a statement, he claimed "everyone deserves access to care" regardless of "who they are or whom they love."
"The Trump-Pence administration's proposal undermines crucial non-discrimination protections for LGBTQ people provided by the Affordable Care Act and puts LGBTQ people at greater risk of being denied health care solely based on their sexual orientation or gender identity," he said. "We oppose this proposal in the strongest terms."
The proposed rollbacks have been opposed by every leading U.S. medical group, including the American Medical Association. The AMA has called the plan "misguided."
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