Politico has some interesting news coming out of the Department of Health and Human Services (and the Trump administration) which is sure to raise cries of outrage from progressives and affects medical services in a few different sectors. They’re looking to implement new protections for healthcare workers who feel compelled to refuse to provide certain services based on their moral and/or religious objections. While details remain sparse and the plan is still under review by the White House, it’s expected that religious protections will be afforded in cases where workers refuse to engage in procedures including abortions, voluntary euthanasia and transitional surgery or hormone therapy for transgender patients.
The Trump administration is planning new protections for health workers who don’t want to perform abortions, refuse to treat transgender patients based on their gender identity or provide other services for which they have moral objections.
Under a proposed rule — which has been closely guarded at HHS and is now under review by the White House — the HHS office in charge of civil rights would be empowered to further shield these workers and punish organizations that don’t allow them to express their moral objections, according to sources on and off the Hill.
HHS did not respond to multiple requests for comment. However, HHS’ leaders have repeatedly criticized the Obama administration for rolling back regulations dating to the George W. Bush administration that legally insulated health care workers while affirming their religious freedoms.
These protections are similar to regulations enacted under George W. Bush, so there’s clearly a precedent. Still, it’s a sticky wicket whenever the subject comes up. Claims of discrimination are sure to arise, plus the usual rounds of complaints about religious and moral objections to abortions. Those are touchy subjects which aren’t going to be resolved here in a single blog post.
The part about transgender treatments is new territory however, since this disturbing phenomenon has really only begun to loom very large in the national conversation over the past decade or so. And with that in mind, I would suggest that the idea of religious or moral objections to treating transgender patients is not only inappropriate but misses the mark entirely.
While a basis for objecting to abortion or euthanasia can obviously be found in the Bible and other religious texts, question of treatment for gender dysphoria is something different. First of all, while I’m by no means a biblical scholar and stand ready to be corrected, I don’t recall any discussions of people believing they are a different gender than God created them as in the scriptures, so what to “do about it” would probably require some creative interpretation. We’re also not talking about ending a life, at least not directly (though the suicide rate for transgender surgery patients is off the end of the bell curve compared to the rest of the population) or even touching on issues of homosexuality.
With that in mind, I would suggest that healthcare workers, regardless of religious belief, shouldn’t have a strong case to make in terms of refusing to provide treatment. But that doesn’t mean that they couldn’t object on a far stronger platform which should be less open to interference by the courts. Medical groups such as the American College of Pediatricians have long studied this issue and warned that gender dysphoria is a mental health issue, not something to be treated with either sex change surgery or hormone therapy. This is particularly true among children, who are being experimented on with chemical and hormonal treatments to delay the onset of puberty in some cases.
The fact is that there is no scientific basis in the medical profession showing that anyone can be proven to actually be a different gender than the one they were born as. (We’re not including those with chromosomal defects at birth, previously referred to as hermaphrodites, but currently termed intersex. That’s a legitimate medical issue to be treated separately.) Rather than voicing some moral or religious objections to such treatments, healthcare professionals should be fully entitled to not perform procedures which are simply bad medicine and not in the best interest of the patient. One of the original maxims of the medical profession is to first do no harm. Surgically altering the genitals of an otherwise healthy human being or distorting their natural chemical and hormonal balances based on nothing more than what they “believe” should be malpractice. Refusing to follow such a course shouldn’t be a matter of morals or religious values, but one of simple professional competence.