United States government announces religious freedom division for healthcare, targeting LGBTI people's access

Donald Trump speaks at healthcare lunch

DHHS created the "Conscience and Religious Freedom Division", which has the power to protect health professionals who feel uncomfortable performing certain services like abortions or transgender treatments, after the administration considered the measure.

Critics said the administration was giving health care providers a license to discriminate, and they raised the possibility that some doctors might deny fertility treatments to lesbian couples and that some pharmacists might refuse to fill prescriptions for certain types of contraceptives. If a gay or transgender person came to the hospital with, say, pneumonia, I would expect healthcare workers - even those with traditional religious beliefs - to treat that person just as they would any other patient with pneumonia.

The Associated Press reports Office of Civil Rights director Roger Severino said from 2008 to November 2016, HHS received 10 such complaints. This includes the Weldon Amendment, which stipulates that states receiving federal funds can not discriminate against health plans that do not cover or pay for abortions.

The order beefed up existed protections for religious believers - as federal law already includes numerous provisions to protect medical workers and their beliefs. The new division will inflict penalties on organizations that force their employees to perform said practices, regardless of their personal convictions, Politico reports.

Russell Moore, president of the Southern Baptist Convention's Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission, also applauded the move.

Family Research Council President Tony Perkins praised the new division, calling it "another moment in which President Trump's promises are becoming a reality". In a press release, the HHS said the division will allow doctors, nurses, and other health care providers to opt out of providing services when they have moral or religious objections.

[F] or too long, too many healthcare practitioners have been bullied and discriminated against due to their religious beliefs and moral convictions, leading many of them to wonder what future they have in our medical system.

Abortion rights advocates called the new division "incredibly risky". "Now Trump, Pence, and their Republican cronies want to allow health care workers to discriminate and rip away access to medical care. This direct targeting of an already vulnerable community from the White House is part of a clear and unsafe pattern including revoking protections for trans students, the proposed trans military ban, and reportedly seeking to censor the word "transgender" from the Center of Disease Control budget documents", GLAAD reports.

"They are prioritizing providers' beliefs over patients' health and lives", Louise Melling, deputy legal director of the American Civil Liberties Union, said in a statement.

Acting HHS Secretary Hargan said, "President Trump promised the American people that his administration would vigorously uphold the rights of conscience and religious freedom". It doesn't mean refusing care to a patient because she is transgender. "The American Association of Pro-Life Obstetricians and Gynecologists (AAPLOG) applauds the creation of this department dedicated to actually enforcing our American right [s] to speak and act according to our conscience, a right on which this country was founded, but which was trampled on by the previous administration", AAPLOG executive director Donna Harrison, MD, said in a statement.

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