- On Friday, the Department of Health and Human Services finalised rules revoking discrimination protections for transgender people established by the Obama administration.
- HHS said it will interpret sex discrimination “according to the plain meaning of the word ‘sex’ as male or female and as determined by biology.”
- Pointing out the rules were announced during Pride month – and on the anniversary of the Pulse nightclub massacre – Joe Biden said President Trump’s “cruelty truly knows no bounds.”
- The ACLU said the new rules “will embolden healthcare discrimination against transgender people,” and promised to file suit against the HHS.
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Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden said Donald Trump’s cruelty “truly knows no bounds” on Friday, after the Trump administration finalised a rule change removing Obama-era nondiscrimination protections in healthcare for transgender Americans.
On the fourth anniversary of Pulse.
In the middle of Pride month.
During a global pandemic.
Donald Trump's cruelty truly knows no bounds. We have to defeat him this November. https://t.co/YAy4ZGxxyD
— Joe Biden (@JoeBiden) June 13, 2020
In a statement earlier in the day, Roger Severino, director of the Department of Health and Human Services’ Office for Civil Rights, announced that Section 1557 of the Affordable Care Act would no longer define sex discrimination to include gender identity.
Biden noted that the rule change was announced during LGBTQ Pride month, and on the fourth anniversary of the Pulse nightclub massacre, when 49 people were shot and killed at a gay club in Orlando.
The new HHS rule reverses an Obama administration determination that discrimination against transgender people by healthcare providers and insurers is illegal. According to a 2016 rule, sex discrimination included bias against one’s gender identity, defined as “male, female, neither, or a combination of male and female.”
But, Severino said, HHS will now “enforce Section 1557 by returning 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.”
“HHS respects the dignity of every human being, and as we have shown in our response to the pandemic, we vigorously protect and enforce the civil rights of all to the fullest extent permitted by our laws as passed by Congress, he said. “We are unwavering in our commitment to enforcing civil rights in healthcare.”
The final rule will also remove “termination of pregnancy” from the ACA’s protected categories, a move reproductive rights groups say will undermine access to abortion, and removes a requirement that HHS mailings be translated into more than a dozen languages. (HHS claims that will “relieve the American people of approximately $US2.9 billion in unnecessary regulatory burdens” over the next five years.)
First proposed in June 2019, the revised rule is expected to go into effect in mid-August, NPR reported, barring a successful legal challenge.
According to the ACLU, one in three transgender Americans experiences discrimination in healthcare. Trans advocates say that, without explicit protections, hospitals can refuse to perform gender-confirming procedures like hysterectomies.
The new rule could also embolden a physician to refuse to treat a transgender patient period, for any condition.
The Transgender Law Centre has promised to file suit, saying in a statement that the regulation changes “put up more unnecessary barriers between two million trans people in the U.S. and the healthcare and insurance coverage they need.”
“Trans people should be able to seek medical care when we need help without being turned away or denied treatment because of who we are,” said TLC director Kris Hayashi. “This appalling move by the Trump administration puts the lives of trans people in jeopardy – especially trans people living with HIV, Black trans people and trans people of colour, trans people with disabilities, and trans people living in rural areas and in Southern states.”
On Twitter, the ACLU said the new rule “will embolden healthcare discrimination against transgender people, those seeking reproductive health care, and many other individuals who need health care – all while a global pandemic is occurring.”
It, too, promised to take legal action.
Since Trump took office, his administration has worked steadily to roll back protections for transgender Americans, including banning them from military service and removing gender identity from federal workplace discrimination protections.
This month, the Supreme Court will rule in a landmark case involving Aimee Stephens, a funeral director who said she was fired for coming out as a trans woman.
Attorneys for Stephens, who died in May, argue that discrimination based on gender identity falls under the prohibition on sex discrimination in Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964.