HHS Launches New Division Allowing Refusal of Health Care to LGBTQ People and Women

January 18, 2018 • 1:38 pm

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) Office for Civil Rights announced a new division dedicated to “conscience and religious freedom.” The division is expected to accompany a new rule that allows health care providers to refuse to treat LGBTQ people and women by claiming that doing so violates their religious beliefs.

“For LGBTQ people seeking emergency treatment, living with HIV, or undergoing a gender transition, being able to access high-quality medically necessary health care quickly can be a matter of life and death.” said Masen Davis, CEO of Freedom for All Americans. “Freedom of religion is important to all of us, but with this unprecedented move, HHS has given wide latitude to the doctors, hospitals, paramedics and other medical providers Americans literally trust with their lives to deny care in our most vulnerable moments. The onslaught of anti-LGBTQ policy initiatives across our country has proven that bias against LGBTQ people is real and acute, and this action by HHS, and the executive order that facilitated it, will have grave consequences for our fellow Americans.”

According to a 2017 survey by the Center for American Progress, 29% of transgender people who’d attempted to see a doctor or other health care provider in the past year said the professional refused to see them because of their actual or perceived gender identity. Additionally, 21% of transgender people reported that a doctor or other health care provider used harsh or abusive language when treating them. Nearly half of LGBTQ people living outside of a metropolitan area reported that should they be turned away from their hospital, it would be very difficult or impossible to access the same service elsewhere.

Today’s news is consistent with sweeping guidance that attorney general Jeff Sessions issued in the fall that grants federal agencies, employees, and government contractors a license to discriminate against LGBTQ people. The guidance stems from an executive order President Trump originally issued in the spring.

Freedom for All Americans is the bipartisan campaign to secure full nondiscrimination protections for LGBTQ people nationwide. Our work brings together Republicans and Democrats, businesses large and small, people of faith, and allies from all walks of life to make the case for comprehensive nondiscrimination protections that ensure everyone is treated fairly and equally.

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