HHS Introduces Broad Rule to Enable Discrimination and Block Access to Care
For Immediate Release: Jan. 19, 2018
Planned Parenthood: “This proposed rule flies in the face of equality and common sense. Patients’ health care will suffer if this becomes law.”
Washington D.C. - Today, the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) released a far-reaching proposed rule that would empower health care workers to block access to care for women, LGBTQ people, and practically anyone they’d like. It would affect numerous health care programs across the federal government and would expand the reach of federal refusal laws to potentially allow any institution, health care provider, or worker in a health care facility to use a personal objection to deny patients access to abortion and other reproductive and sexual health services, or to deny health care to patients simply on the basis of their gender identity or sexual orientation. Over the past 12 months, the Trump-Pence administration has continually taken steps to undermine the rights of countless people — specifically people who identify as LGBTQ, women, immigrants, people with disabilities, and people of color — and cut off access to sexual and reproductive health care.
Statement from Dawn Laguens, Executive Vice President of Planned Parenthood Federation of America:
This proposed rule flies in the face of equality and common sense. It’s one more egregious example of the Trump-Pence administration putting people’s lives at risk to further an extreme ideological agenda, and we condemn it.
“This broad rule could mean that a woman is denied the ability to access an abortion, even though she should legally be able to do so. A patient could be denied birth control simply because their pharmacist or doctor doesn’t believe they should be able to take it. This rule could mean that a family is unable to get quality medical care for their child because the parents happen to be lesbians, or that a transgender person is unable to get basic medical care because of their gender identity. Patients’ health care will suffer if this becomes law.
“No one should have to worry that they won’t be able to access basic medical care simply because of their provider’s personal, religious, or moral beliefs.
“At Planned Parenthood, we believe it is essential that every person is able to access the health care they need, regardless of their income, gender identity, sexual orientation, race, or country of origin. Planned Parenthood vows to fight this proposed rule, and stand up for the patients whose health care is at risk.
Statement from Rabbi Dennis S. Ross, Director, Concerned Clergy for Choice:
The White House continues to play religious favorites by elevating the restrictive teachings of one faith over those whose teachings respect the need for people to get basic health care. This is a national tragedy.
A few examples of what this rule could mean:
- A pharmacist could refuse to fill a prescription for birth control or antidepressants, or refuse to administer a vaccine simply because of their own personal beliefs.
- A hospital administrator could cancel a woman’s life-saving treatment for cancer because it might harm her pregnancy.
- A transgender patient could be denied hormone therapy or be unable to get emergency medical care because their provider refuses to see transgender patients.
- A pediatrician could refuse to treat a child because her parents identify as lesbian, gay, transgender, or queer.
- A mental health clinic could refuse to see any patient who is in a same-sex relationship.
This proposed rule follows a Thursday action to set up a HHS office designed to ensure that individuals can be denied access to basic health care and information based on their providers’ personal beliefs. The administration has made clear its priority to allow providers to discriminate against their patients for a variety of reasons, including their gender identity, sexual orientation, or decision to access a safe, legal abortion. The Office for Civil Rights at the Department of Health and Human Services, the agency in charge of protecting the health of all Americans, will instead devote its resources to denying essential, potentially life-saving care to people of all identities. Tellingly, yesterday’s and today’s announcements do not include one word dedicated to ensuring that protections are in place for patients who are on the receiving end of these denials.
Roger Severino, the man overseeing the Office for Civil Rights, is advancing his own ideological agenda, consistent with that of numerous Trump-Pence administration officials, at the expense of the people he is tasked with serving. Severino has called to end protections for transgender people, he is a staunch opponent of comprehensive sexual and reproductive health services, including contraception and abortion, and he has also called for the “defunding” of Planned Parenthood.
Mainstream medical groups have recognized the negative effects that refusal laws can have on patients and have called for patient protections when religious refusals may compromise care. In fact, the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG) has affirmed that refusals should be “limited if they constitute an imposition of religious or moral beliefs on patients, negatively affect a patient's health, are based on scientific misinformation, or create or reinforce racial or socioeconomic inequalities.”
Planned Parenthood is the nation’s leading provider and advocate of high-quality, affordable health care for women, men, and young people, as well as the nation’s largest provider of sex education. With more than 600 health centers across the country, Planned Parenthood organizations serve all patients with care and compassion, with respect and without judgment. Through health centers, programs in schools and communities, and online resources, Planned Parenthood is a trusted source of reliable health information that allows people to make informed health decisions. We do all this because we care passionately about helping people lead healthier lives.