On May 24, 2019, the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) announced a proposed rule to end an Obama-era regulation prohibiting healthcare professionals from treating patients based on their biological sex. Specifically, the Affordable Care Act’s (ACA) section 1557 is a civil rights provision protecting people from discrimination on the basis of race, color, national origin, sex, age, or disability in certain health programs or activities.

In 2016, HHS announced a final rule redefining Section 1557’s language “on the basis of sex” to include gender identity (“one’s internal sense of being”) and termination of pregnancy. Consequently, the final rule required covered health programs and activities to treat individuals with the gender they identified as, not their biological sex, and could have even forced providers to provide abortion. Research consistently shows that sex is not subjective and gender transition surgeries are not fully accepted by the medical community because of their associated risks. HHS’s updated rule protects the healthcare industry’s conscience protections and prevents the government from blocking a doctor’s ability to best treat their patients. 

Subsequently, several states and health organizations filed federal lawsuitsagainst HHS’s Section 1557 changes. On December 31, 2016, the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Texas found the changes contrary to current civil rights law, the Religious Freedom Restoration Act, and the Administrative Procedure Act.

As HHS’s Office of Civil Rights Director Roger Severino said, “When Congress prohibited sex discrimination, it did so according to the plain meaning of the term, and we are making our regulations conform. The American people want vigorous protection of civil rights and faithfulness to the text of the laws passed by their representatives. The proposed rule would accomplish both goals.”

HHS is currently taking public comments on the proposed rule through Tuesday, August 13, 2019. Leaving a public comment, even an anonymous one, helps HHS ensure that the decisions the department is making align with the values of the American people. Please tell HHS that you support the changes removing protections for the gender identity and abortion agenda.

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Mike Scruggs