The Department of Health and Human Services announced the creation of a new and unsafe division of the Office of Civil Rights today that will allow healthcare providers to deny care to LGBT people and pregnant women based on their religious beliefs.
Essentially, the office will provide support for far right religious organisations who are against LGBTQ equality and abortion.
Critics of the move predicted the new division, whose creation was praised by conservative Christian advocacy groups that have strongly supported Republican President Donald Trump, would become embroiled in current litigation over whether healthcare workers can deny care to women seeking abortions or birth control as well as gay and transgender patients.
Although the administration claims the new office is meant to protect religious beliefs, it will nearly surely function to license discrimination against women, LGBT people, and others.
Robin Wilson, a professor at University of Illinois College of Law, said she thought the Trump administration was indicating it will side with those doctors or hospitals who refuse to perform gender-reassignment surgery. There was, naturally, no mention of the harm to women that results when hospitals refuse to provide abortions or referrals for abortions.
"President Trump promised the American people that his administration would vigorously uphold the rights of conscience and religious freedom", said Hargan. And anti-transgender advocates, who now have significant influence in the White House, have made it clear that a significant part of their agenda is to deprive transgender patients of essential, medically necessary health care. What this new division seems set to do, however, is to allow those who are so inclined to directly undermine the rights of others - particularly sexual and gender minorities - and then to claim to be doing so due to their religion.More news: Andre Agassi believes Novak Djokovic can win Australian Open
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"Everyone has the freedom, under the First Amendment, to practice their religion, but when deep morals or religious convictions overshadow the responsibility to provide care to sick and dying people, it is risky for our nation". The department rescinded guidance to states from President Barack Obama's administration that narrowed the circumstances in which they can exclude a medical provider to cases involving fraud, criminal activity or being unfit to provide care.
Planned Parenthood blasted the latest move, saying it takes an end-run around elected lawmakers and would deny critical services to women who use their clinics because they can not get health care elsewhere.
Severino told EWTN News Nightly that he attributes this surge in complaints to "pent up demand" and that this new division has been established "to assess complaints, see which ones are meritorious, and to vindicate the interests of justice as the law requires". Freedom of religion is at the core of our national fabric and our Constitution. Federal law prohibits Medicaid or any other federal funding for abortion services. "Health care professionals should be freed up to care for the bodies and minds of their patients, not tied up by having their own consciences bound", he added.
He assured the patients that all the physicians he knows provide care to anyone, even if they are engaged in lifestyles deemed by the doctor as harmful or immoral, such as smoking and alcohol abuse.
"As we write the next great chapter of our Nation, we reaffirm our commitment to these fundamental truths and will work to ensure that all Americans live in a country where they feel safe and where their opportunities are limitless". But we will be watching.
ACLU Deputy Legal Director Louise Melling said in a statement ahead of the announcement, "Should the administration choose to move forward to implement a discriminatory policy, we will see them in court".