The Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) proposed a new rule Monday, expanding the definition of discrimination on the basis of sex to include decisions concerning abortion.
The proposal also includes gender identity and sexual orientation in the definition of sex discrimination.
Pregnant women would be protected by the HHS rule if they faced discrimination due to pregnancy or other related conditions, including abortion or "pregnancy termination." The timing of this provision under the rule is also being questioned after the U.S. Supreme Court decided the issue of abortion would be regulated by the states and not the federal government.
It also makes it discriminatory for health care providers that receive federal funds to refuse gender transitions and other treatments.
The proposed rule (RIN 0945-AA17) would add gender identity and sexual orientation as protections from discrimination under Section 1557 of the Affordable Care Act, reversing a Trump-era regulation, according to Bloomberg Law.
The rule would enforce these specific points under health insurance plans that do business through Medicare, Medicaid, or the Obamacare exchanges, including care provided under Medicare Part B, like that in a doctor's office, Bloomberg reported.
The rule has been under internal review since March and is now open for public comment for 60 days.
Public Comment Now Open -- You can submit comments, identified by RIN 0945-AA17, electronically through https://www.regulations.gov, or by mail or via hand delivery or courier to the following address only: U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Office for Civil Rights, Attention: 1557 NPRM (RIN 0945-AA17), Hubert H. Humphrey Building, Room 509F, 200 Independence Avenue SW., Washington, DC 20201.
"We want to make sure that whoever you are, whatever you look like, wherever you live, however you wish to live your life, that you have access to the care that you need so that your decisions are based on what you and your health-care provider and your physician...is available to you so you can access the care that you need," HHS Secretary Xavier Becerra said in a call with members of the press on Monday. "We believe that this will restore and strengthen civil rights protections for patients and consumers throughout the country."
Biden Admin Wants to Keep Obama's 'Transgender Mandate'
Critics argue it will force some health care groups to provide services that violate their religious beliefs. According to Bloomberg Law, the proposed rule also includes a religious and conscience provision in response to feedback from the healthcare industry and advocates, OCR Acting Director Melanie Fontes Rainer said during the press call.
As CBN News reported in January of 2021, a federal court in North Dakota struck down a directive known as the "Transgender Mandate" that was issued under the Obama administration. It had forced members of the health care community to violate their medical judgment and religious beliefs.
Then as CBN News later reported in April, the Biden administration filed an appeal to find a way to force physicians and hospitals to perform potentially harmful gender transition surgeries on patients – including children – even if they have religious objections.
The Daily Caller reported Biden's appeal hinges on a 2016 Obama-era interpretation of a nondiscrimination clause of the Affordable Care Act, resulting in a mandate that did not include conscience or religion exemptions. The mandate required doctors and hospitals to provide transgender surgeries upon a mental health professional's referral.
Two federal courts have already struck down the Transgender Mandate. Last May, a federal district court issued an order temporarily halting the enforcement of two Biden administration transgender mandates.
The mandates would force both non-profit and for-profit religious employers and healthcare providers to pay for and perform surgeries, procedures, counseling, and treatments that seek to alter a patient's biological sex even if such actions violate the employers' or providers' religious beliefs.
Bloomberg Law points out that regulations from both the Obama and Trump administrations regarding Section 1557 are still tied up in court. Those court cases found that the word "sex" could not be interpreted to include gender identity in the regulations.
"No doubt someone may challenge us and say that we're not interpreting the law properly. We think we are, we have taken quite a bit of time," Becerra said.
Pushback Against States Prohibiting Gender Altering Procedures on Children
The proposed rule is also seen by some critics as pushback by the Biden administration against several states that have passed laws barring gender-altering procedures including the use of puberty blockers, hormone treatments, or surgical procedures for children and adolescents experiencing gender dysphoria.
Last April, Biden's former White House press secretary Jen Psaki went on record opposing a move by the Alabama Legislature to pass legislation that protects impressionable young children from the irreversible effects of gender-changing medications and genital-altering surgeries.
Psaki argued that kids should be given puberty blockers if they want them, claiming they "save lives". In her online blog, The Truth Fairy, author Abigail Shrier responded, "There is, in fact, no proof that 'affirmative care' improves the mental health of gender dysphoric youth long-term—much less that its interventions are 'life-saving'."
Shrier, author of the book IRREVERSIBLE DAMAGE: The Transgender Craze Seducing Our Daughters, wrote, "An outstanding recent paper in the Journal of Sex & Marital Therapy is only the latest to expose the poor empirical basis for these treatments with minors. It's a must-read paper for any policy maker, parent, or psychologist grappling with this fraught question. The authors state, as if with a sigh: 'The evidence underlying the practice of pediatric gender transition is widely recognized to be of very low quality'."
"Activists often exaggerate the suicide risk to gender dysphoric minors—as well as the mental health efficacy of these treatments—in order to coerce parents into acceding to the interventions," Shrier wrote.
She said the study's authors point out: "The 'transition or suicide' narrative falsely implies that transition will prevent suicides. Neither hormones nor surgeries have been shown to reduce suicidality in the long-term."
"That the Biden administration would peddle an activist talking point with no solid factual basis signals how desperate it is to please the radical flank of its supporters," she noted.
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