Final HHS rule helps ‘restore rights of health care providers,’ say bishops

Final HHS rule helps ‘restore rights of health care providers,’ say bishops

A sign indicating a unisex bathroom is seen in 2016 in North Carolina. (Credit: Jonathan Drake/Reuters via CNS.)

The chairmen of three U.S. bishops' committees welcomed a final rule implemented by the Trump administration June 12 to restore "the long-standing position of the federal government that discrimination on the basis of 'sex' means just that and does not refer to 'termination of pregnancy' nor 'gender identity.'"

WASHINGTON, D.C. — The chairmen of three U.S. bishops’ committees welcomed a final rule implemented by the Trump administration June 12 to restore “the long-standing position of the federal government that discrimination on the basis of ‘sex’ means just that and does not refer to ‘termination of pregnancy’ nor ‘gender identity.'”

This final rule replaces the Obama administration’s Health and Human Services rule issued in 2016 — and vacated by a court last October — that implemented a civil rights provision of the Affordable Care Act known as Section 1557.

Section 1557 provides that individuals cannot be subject to discrimination based on their race, color, national origin, sex, age or disability. Under the Obama administration, HHS regulations governing implementation of this section had no exemption for religious organizations.

The Trump administration’s final rule, first proposed in May 2019, “will help restore the rights of health care providers — as well as insurers and employers — who decline to perform or cover abortions or ‘gender transition’ procedures due to ethical or professional objections,” the bishops said in a statement released late June 12.

“Catholic health care providers serve everyone who comes to them, regardless of characteristics or background. However, there are ethical considerations when it comes to procedures,” they said. “We greatly appreciate today’s important action.”

Signing the statement were: Archbishop Joseph F. Naumann of Kansas City, Kansas, chairman of the Committee on Pro-Life Activities; Archbishop Paul S. Coakley of Oklahoma City, chairman of the Committee on Domestic Justice and Human Development; and Bishop David A. Konderla of Tulsa, Oklahoma, chairman of the Subcommittee for the Promotion and Defense of Marriage.

“These modifications are consistent with the legislative intent of the Affordable Care Act — to ensure no one is discriminated against in health care because of their sex,” the bishops added.

Under the Obama-era rule, Catholic hospitals and health care providers were required to perform or provide gender transition services, hormonal treatments and counseling as well as a host of surgeries that would remove or transform the sexual organs of men or women transitioning to the other gender. It also required group health plans to cover these procedures and services.

The regulations also mandated abortions be performed and affected health insurers, hospitals and health plans administered by or receiving federal funds from HHS.

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