LGBT rights groups have raised alarm at the fact that the Trump administration is in the process of finalizing a policy that would rescind an Obama-era healthcare rule that opponents say requires hospitals, doctors and health insurers to cover or provide gender transition therapies and procedures.
The Hill reports that the Department of Justice is reviewing a proposed rule that has already cleared the Department of Health and Human Services that would rescind an HHS mandate instituted in 2016 that bars healthcare providers and insurers who receive federal tax dollars from denying treatment or coverage to patients on the basis of gender identity.
This mandate meant that procedures and services offered by hospitals and doctors to nontransgender patients for medical reasons — such as a hysterectomy — must be offered to transgender individuals if deemed "medically necessary."
The rule was challenged in court by five states and organizations like the Christian Medical and Dental Associations and the Franciscan Alliance, which represent over 17,000 physicians. The lawsuit claimed that the rule would force doctors and hospitals to "perform controversial and sometimes harmful medical procedures ostensibly designed to permanently change an individual's sex — including the sex of children."
Additionally, the lawsuit claimed that the law would require faith-based hospitals and doctors to perform procedures for the purpose of sex reassignment even if they feel such acts would violate religious or moral convictions.
Earlier this year, a federal judge in Texas issued a nationwide injunction against the HHS rule, which opponents also said laid the groundwork for an abortion mandate. The Trump administration did not appeal the ruling.
According to The Hill, a new policy on the matter is expected to be released by HHS in the coming weeks or months.
Pro-LGBT activists groups oppose such a measure and argue that it would make it easier for transgender patients to be discriminated against. Lawyers from groups like Lambda Legal and the American Civil Liberties Union told the news outlet that they have not yet seen the proposed draft but asserted that the Trump administration has made its plans clear.
The Hill notes that whenever the Justice Department completes its review of the policy, its final step would be a review by the Office of Management and Budget. However, it is not clear when the Justice Department's review will conclude.
"I don't think they (HHS) are going to have an easy time ... and we'll make sure they hear every objection and justify what they're doing," ACLU Senior Staff Attorney Joshua Block told The Hill.
Lambda Legal Staff Attorney Sasha Buchert told The Hill that she is surprised at how fast HHS, led by former Republican Congressman Tom Price, drafted the new rule.
"I expected them to take more time in deliberating, in the same way the original rule was crafted, rather than crafting something internally and sending it over to DOJ," Buchert said.
After the rule is officially released, there will be a public comment period.
The Becket Fund, a legal group that represented the Franciscan Network in the lawsuit, told The Hill in an email statement that the Obama-era rule "never had a legal leg to stand on."
"[T]he government has no business forcing doctors to violate their medical judgment and perform harmful gender transition procedures on children," the statement reads.