On January 18th, Reuters and the Washington Post reported that the U.S. Department for Health and Human Services (HHS) created a new Conscience and Religious Freedom Division within its Office of Civil Rights to enforce the rights of medical practitioners who invoke objections to certain medical procedures based on religious grounds.
Critics of the new division say it will provide legal protection for otherwise unlawful acts of discrimination against the gay and transgender community, as well as denial of services to women seeking abortions.
Wilson, a professor at University of Illinois College of Law, said she thought the Trump administration was indicating it will side with doctors or hospitals who refuse to perform gender-reassignment surgery.
In a follow-up story on January 19th, Reuters reported that HHS had revoked an Obama-era Planned Parenthood protection. The department is also issuing a new regulation aimed at protecting healthcare workers’ civil rights based on religious and conscience objections.
"You are watching a struggle over abortion politics," Wilson said. "In a sense you’re allowing state Medicaid regulators, through regulation, to reopen a whole can of worms around women’s health."
Wilson said the impact could be immediate in states which, before the Obama-era guidance, had been working to effectively defund or limit funding to providers such as Planned Parenthood, which provide abortions but bill them separately so that they are not paid for by Medicaid.
Read the full stories below:
Trump move on healthcare religious freedom prompts discrimination fears (Reuters)
HHS is targeting health workers’ religious objections. Here’s why. (Washington Post)
U.S. health agency revokes Obama-era Planned Parenthood protection (Reuters)