As the Trump administration works to expand medical workers’ religious liberty protections, states across the country are pushing back by trying to force doctors and nurses to fall in line with modern sexual ethics.
The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) announced Friday it was removing “gender identity” as a component of sex discrimination in healthcare. The old policy, instituted by President Barack Obama, forced insurance companies and healthcare providers receiving federal funds to cover “gender transition services,” effectively requiring Christian healthcare workers to support or perform sex change operations. A federal judge temporarily stopped the rule from taking effect in December 2016 while the courts considered challenges to it.
Friday’s announcement builds on another rule President Donald Trump unveiled on the National Day of Prayer earlier this month that protects doctors and nurses who object to participating in abortion, assisted suicide, or sterilization.
“The Trump administration is right to issue a proposed rule that affirms the government’s long-standing interpretation of ‘sex,’” Alliance Defending Freedom legal counsel Kellie Fiedorek said in a statement. “Replacing the objective concept of sex with subjective gender identity, as some courts and the prior administration have tried to do, has far-reaching consequences.”
Just hours after Trump announced the expanded protections for pro-life healthcare workers, the city of San Francisco filed a lawsuit to block them. Since then, the state of California has filed a separate lawsuit arguing there was no evidence that the government considered the effect of the rule on patients. The California lawsuit also complained that the exemption applies too broadly to any individual, entity, or provider who has moral objections to life-ending procedures.
Last week, another lawsuit filed in federal court in New York City asked a judge to declare the rule unconstitutional, saying it was passed in an arbitrary and capricious manner. Two dozen states and municipalities joined the New York suit, including Chicago, Cook County, and the state of Illinois; Colorado; Connecticut; Delaware; the District of Columbia; Hawaii; Maryland; Massachusetts; Michigan; Minnesota; Nevada; New Jersey; New Mexico; New York City and New York state; Oregon; Pennsylvania; Rhode Island; Vermont; Virginia; and Wisconsin.
New York Attorney General Letitia James said the lawsuit is meant to stop the federal government from “giving healthcare providers free license to openly discriminate and refuse care to patients.”
But discrimination is exactly why the Trump administration thought the new rules were necessary. HHS said previous conscience protections didn’t do enough to safeguard healthcare workers with moral and ethical objections. The possibility of religious-based discrimination isn’t hypothetical. Illinois nurse Sandra Rojas, for example, lost her job with the Winnebago County Health Department in 2015 for objecting to providing abortifacients and making referrals for abortions. The new rules give the HHS Office of Civil Rights the authority to investigate cases like Rojas’ and withhold federal funds if discrimination has occurred.
Albert Mohler, president of The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary and a WORLD News Group board member said on his podcast The Briefing that the medical field is “under enormous pressure” to bow to cultural norms surrounding gender and the “new understanding of medical ethics.”
He pointed to a recent op-ed in The New York Times that essentially argued that students who object to performing abortions should not go into obstetrics or gynecology. “We want people to enter the medical specializations of obstetrics and gynecology in order to save the lives of babies, not to kill them in the womb,” he said.
Many people join the medical profession out of a desire to protect life. But if the pro-abortion, euthanasia, and the LGBT lobby continue take a “my way or the highway” stance in medicine, Christian healthcare workers may find themselves pushed out of the field.