Administration to shield health workers who refuse to treat transgender patients

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A proposal would offer shelter to employees who refuse to care for transgender residents and others
A proposal would offer shelter to employees who refuse to care for transgender residents and others

The Trump administration is expected to institute new protections as soon as this week for healthcare workers who refuse to treat transgender patients or perform other types of care to which they morally object.

Under a proposed rule, the Department of Health and Human Services office in charge of civil rights would be able to shield workers and punish organizations that don't allow them to express their moral objections, according to sources “on and off the Hill” quoted by Politico.

HHS leaders have publicly criticized the Obama administration for rolling back prior regulations that legally protected healthcare workers who were acting on religious freedoms.

Roger Severino, the Trump appointee leading the HHS Office of Civil Rights, has made strengthening conscience protections for these workers a top priority, Politico reported.

Advocates for the LGBTQ senior community said they are worried about the rule's impact on quality of life and access to care. In December, SAGE, the nation's oldest such advocacy group, released a report highlighting the ways in which lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender elders are being harmed by laws and policies aimed at exempting religious organizations and individuals from following nondiscrimination and civil rights laws and policies.

Older LGBT adults, the organization pointed out, are like many U.S. adults in that they rely on a senior healthcare and housing network that is largely affiliated with religious organizations — including about 85% of continuing care retirement communities.

“Religious exemption laws jeopardize the security and safety of LGBT older adults at a time when they are most vulnerable and most in need,” the report noted.

Observers expect the new Trump administration standard could be in effect in time for Friday's March for Life, which marks the anniversary of the Supreme Court's Roe v. Wade decision. The ruling also would  give greater protections to those who opt out of providing abortion care.

Administration supporters said new rules are needed to prevent religious employees from having to compromise their beliefs.

“To be forced [to treat patients] under pain of losing one's job is just outrageous,” Politico quoted Rep. Chris Smith (R-N.J.), co-chairman of the Bipartisan Congressional Pro-Life Caucus, as saying last week.