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The Trump administration has rolled back Obamacare healthcare legislation protecting transgender Americans from discrimination.
The US Department of Health and Human Service’s (HHS) move to recognise sex discrimination ‘according to the plain meaning of the word sex as male or female and as determined by biology,’ could see non-heterosexuals and people of different gender identities stripped of civil rights with regards to health protections.
The downgrade – one of several across education, housing, military employment – comes in the middle of Pride month, as well as the four-year anniversary of the Orlando nightclub shooting at Pulse, a gay club in which 49 people were killed and a further 53 injured. However, the HHS says this is ‘purely coincidental’.
Long-desired by more conservative, religious Republicans, it’s a shift back to a time when the US government ‘declined to recognise sexual orientation as a protected category under the Affordable Care Act (ACA)’, commonly known as Obamacare, leaving race, colour, age, disability and other factors open to discriminatory statutes.
Essentially, any healthcare providers and insurance companies regulated under the ACA and backed by federal funding now have the choice to refuse services to transgender people, whether it be a check-up, abortions or cancer treatment. While the HHS allegedly ‘respects the dignity of every human being’, critics have decried the reversal as an attack on the LGBTQ+ community.
Several LGBTQ+ rights groups have condemned the ruling, while The Human Rights Campaign plans to mount a legal challenge. The group’s president, Alphonso David, told CNN: ‘We cannot and will not allow Donald Trump to continue attacking us. Today, the Human Rights Campaign is announcing plans to sue the Trump administration for exceeding their legal authority and attempting to remove basic health care protections from vulnerable communities including LGBTQ people.’
A statement from the Human Rights Campaign reads, as The New York Times reports:
We will not let this attack on our basic right to be free from discrimination in health care go unchallenged. We will see them in court, and continue to challenge all of our elected officials to rise up against this blatant attempt to erode critical protections people need and sanction discrimination.
Rodrigo Heng-Lehtinen, the deputy executive director of the National Center for Transgender Equality, also pointed out the curious timing of the enforcement; with the nation still battling a pandemic, trans people have been placed in a dangerous position.
Heng-Lehtinen explained: ‘It’s really, really horrendous to not only gut nondiscrimination protections, but to gut nondiscrimination protections in the middle of a pandemic. This rule opens a door for a medical provider to turn someone away for a COVID-19 test just because they happen to be transgender.’
New York Governor Andrew Cuomo criticised the move, writing on Twitter: ‘At a time when there is so much violence against trans people, it is abhorrent that the Trump admin is stripping away critical health protections.’
In a statement, Roger Severino, the director of the Office for Civil Rights at the Department of Health and Human Services, described the rule as ‘equivalent to housekeeping’. Providers are still permitted to adopt their own gender identity policies, however there’s no legal requirement to do so.
If you’ve been affected by any of these issues and want to speak to someone in confidence, contact the LGBT Foundation on 0345 3 30 30 30, 10am–6pm Monday to Friday, or email [email protected]
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