President Barack Obama’s administration issued a rule in 2016 that health care providers receiving federal funding could not discriminate on the basis of sex and expanded the term “sex discrimination” to include gender identity — though a federal judge later blocked enforcement on the latter of these rules.
The Department of Health and Human Services said its proposal aims to align its definition with “the plain understanding recognized by the court.”
“The American people want vigorous protection of civil rights and faithfulness to the text of the laws passed by their representatives,” said Roger Severino, director of the Office of Civil Rights at HHS. “The proposed rule would accomplish both goals.”
In a statement, Dr. Meera Shah, a fellow with Physicians for Reproductive Health and family medicine physician in New York, warned of the dangers posed by such a regulation.
“This rule could cause great harm to transgender people. As a physician who provides health care to a gender expansive community, including providing gender affirming hormone therapy, I know that medical interventions such as these are life-saving and medically necessary,” she said. “No patient should be discriminated against based on their gender identity or sexual orientation. All people, no matter their gender, are deserving of comprehensive, compassionate health care.”
The proposed regulation comes just days after the Department of Housing and Urban Development released its own proposal permitting federally funded homeless shelters to deny transgender people access to equal services.
Rep. Joe Kennedy III (D-Mass.), who leads the congressional task force on transgender equality, emphasized in a statement shared on Twitter that denying care to transgender people remains illegal.
“Despite the intolerance and hatred perpetrated by President Trump and Vice President [Mike] Pence, every trans American should know that they are seen, they are heard, and we are fighting with them,” he said.