Today the Trump administration announced its decision to overhaul the Department of Health and Human Services’ (HHS) civil rights office. In an effort to shield health workers with religious and moral “objections” to providing abortion access for women, performing sex-change operations for transgender patients, among other medical services, the Trump administration proves just 18 days into 2018 that things really can get worse from here.
“Days after we celebrate the legacy of MLK, the Trump administration hijacks the HHS office of Civil Rights to create cover for people who want to deny healthcare to women and LGBTQ people,” Monica Simpson, Executive Director of SisterSong: The National Women of Color Reproductive Justice Collective, said in a statement. “This administration intends to create a license to discriminate in healthcare when women of color already struggle to get birth control, abortion, and other care. Women, people of color, and LGBTQ people are tired of bearing the brunt of this administration’s cruel policies. This latest outrage only fuels our resolve to resist and fight back.”
The decision marks a big win for anti-abortion groups. Occurring just a day before the annual March for Life in Washington, the move was reportedly one of their priorities, and there appeared to be a buildup leading to it.
Roger Severino—the director of the civil rights office who the Human Rights Campaign has called a “radical anti-LGBTQ-rights activist”—tells The New York Times that, for a long while, discrimination complaints reported to the unit were met with “outright hostility,” if not ignored. Though the civil rights office was supposed to be protector of healthcare professionals’ rights, many felt the Trump administration was instead “giving health care providers a license to discriminate.”
And now, here we are.
“Donald Trump’s administration is handing out permission slips for hospitals and providers to deny individuals, including women and LGBT patients, access to a full range of health services including life saving emergency care,” Dawn Huckelbridge, director of the Women’s Rights Initiative at American Bridge, told NYT. “If there is any doubt about how morally repulsive, politically unpopular, and far-reaching the consequences of this rule will be, crafting it in secret behind closed doors and without public input says all you need to know.”
Apparently, this is also an effort to follow through with the executive order issued by Trump last year that stated folks of faith “would no longer be silenced or bullied,” but this… isn’t… quite… how we pictured that being addressed.
This story was updated on January 18, 2018 at 3:42 p.m. EST.