Why Can Caretakers Discriminate Against Sex?
Updated: Jul 25
BY: Isabella Gattuso
Throughout Donald Trump’s entire presidency, he has attempted to repeal the rights of LGBTQ+ citizens. These past weeks have proven no different. In the past, the Trump-Pence administration has repeatedly attacked LGBTQ+ protections in places such as employment, marriage, and education; now, it’s medicine. This discrimination is estimated to affect the 1.4 million Americans whose identities don’t match theirs on their birth certificate.
Currently, under Section 1557 of the Affordable Care Act, employers are prohibited from discrimination on the basis of race, age, disability, and specifically sex. However, under a new plan introduced on the anniversary of the Pulse shooting, sex would be redefined as its biological definition - either male or female- and allow medical providers and insurance companies to discriminate against transgender people if they had a religious or moral opposition to their orientation. Section 1557 was first challenged in 2016 after eight states and varying organizations found that nondiscriminatory practices allowed doctors to perform treatment against their religious ideals and claimed it cost taxpayers $2.9 billion dollars annually in “regulatory burdens”. While it was struck down by numerous courts, a single judge allowed the U.S Department of Health and Human Services to stop enforcing Section 1557. Since then, it has been under revision to accommodate the court decision.
This announcement spells out almost certain second-rate treatment for transgendered people. A study in 2017 by the Center for American Progress found that 29% of doctors refused to treat LGBTQ+ people because of their orientation and another 23% of doctors intentionally misgendered people. 14% who had faced discrimination avoided seeing their doctor again. This act will intentionally try and prevent people from getting the treatment they need during a global pandemic and willingly accepts the loss of life for the sake of 2.9 billion(out of the 3.706 trillion federal budget for 2020). The moral or religious biases of medical personnel could become key to an innocent person’s life rather than the Hippocratic oath.
Fortunately, not all hope is lost for the LGBTQ+ community. Several groups have already announced they would challenge this legislation in court, including the American Civil Liberties Union and Lambda Legal’s Transgender Rights Project. Even more so the Supreme Court has indicated where their alliances lie: in a 6-3 ruling, they ruled that it was unlawful for an individual to fire someone based on orientation. The fight for equality for transgender people is far from over, but the battle for justice by everyday people proves it is a cause worth fighting for.