The White House is currently reviewing a proposed rule that could extend protections for health workers who refuse to perform abortions or treat transgender patients on moral grounds, according to an exclusive report published by Politico Tuesday.
Under the proposed rule, the Department of Health and Human Services, HHS, office in charge of investigating civil rights violations in health-care, including discrimination on the basis of race, sex, gender or religion, would be able to protect these workers from legal action, sources in Washington told Politico reporters Dan Diamon and Jennifer Haberkorn. The proposed measure would leave women and transgender patients unprotected.
The move seeks to bring back George W. Bush-era rules that protected health care workers from prosecution or dismissal when they refused to treat patients based on their religious and moral beliefs in issues related to abortion, HIV and AIDS as well as the LGBTQ community.
“For instance, some workers cited their moral objections when denying fertility treatment to lesbian couples or not providing ambulance transportation to a pregnant woman seeking an abortion,” Politico reported. Those rules were suspended in 2011 by Barack Obama’s administration.
The report seems likely given that Roger Severino, who leads the HHS civil rights office, is an outspoken advocate against abortion and same-sex marriage. LGBTQ-rights organization The Human Rights Campaign called him a “radical anti-LGBTQ-rights activist.”
In a January 2016 report he co-authored for the Heritage Foundation, Severino argued that gender identity and sexual orientation do not deserve the protected-class status given to sex, race because they "are changeable, self-reported, and entirely self-defined characteristics.”
According to Politico the pending rule could be released this week, in time for Friday’s March for Life, the largest pro-life rally in the U.S..
The move is seen as part of U.S. Donald Trump's largest strategy to undermine former U.S. President Obama's Affordable Care Act, known to as "Obamacare," before being able to "repeal and replace", one of Trump's main campaign promises.
Shortly after inauguration, Trump signed an executive order directing state agencies to minimize "the economic burden" of Obama's Affordable Care Act. Last year HHS rolled back the Act's birth control mandate, allowing employers to choose whether or not to provide birth control based on moral grounds. A decision seen by many women's rights advocates as discriminatory.
The pending rule is also part of a wide-ranging shift to uphold socially conservative values, disregarding state duties in the realization of human rights and the principle of non-discrimination.
For example, earlier this month anti-abortion and abstinence education advocate, Valerie Huber, was named acting deputy assistant secretary for population affairs. She was named in replacement of another anti-abortion activist, Teresa Manning, who resigned on Jan. 12.