U.S. Bishops Oppose Proposed Federal Healthcare Protections for LGBTQ+ Patients

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) has announced changes to regulations based on the Affordable Care Act that are being criticized by the U.S. bishops’ conference over religious liberty concerns.

In July, HHS proposed revisions to Section 1557 of the Affordable Care Act. This provision “prohibits discrimination on the basis of race, color, national origin, sex, age, or disability in certain health programs or activities,” according to Crux. If the proposed revisions are implemented, one requirement will be that health care workers are to perform requested gender-affirming care, and health insurance providers would be required to cover these procedures.

HHS Secretary Xavier Becerra, who is Catholic, has said that the proposed changes are necessary to create more inclusive and non-discriminatory healthcare environments. He stated:

“‘Standing with communities in need is critical, particularly given increased attacks on women, trans youth, and health care providers. Health care should be a right not dependent on looks, location, love, language, or the type of care someone needs.'”

While HHS states the the proposed changes will continue to respect religious beliefs, the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ (USCCB) is concerned about how the new directives will affect Catholic healthcare ministries. The USCCB responded to the changes by stating, in part:

“‘Catholic health care ministries serve everyone, no matter their race, sex, belief system, or any other characteristic. The same excellent care will be provided in a Catholic hospital to all patients, including patients who identify as transgender, whether it be for a broken bone or for cancer, but we cannot do what our faith forbids. We object to harmful procedures, not to patients.'”

The USCCB has been vocal about its opposition to HHS’ healthcare provisions for several years. Back in 2020, HHS finalized a rule within Section 1557 that protected healthcare access for people of all genders and sexual orientations. The Trump administration rejected this protection, which further limited healthcare access for transgender people. The USCCB published a statement praising the Trump administration for rejecting HHS’ new ruling. The bishops’ conference stated that discriminatory regulations need to be in place in order to “help restore the rights of health care providers – as well as insurers and employers – who decline to perform or cover abortions or ‘gender transition’ procedures due to ethical or professional objections.”

HHS’ healthcare propositions initiated a legal battle between Franciscan Health, an Indiana and Illinois Catholic hospital network, and the U.S. federal government in 2021. According to a previous Bondings 2.0 report, HHS filed a lawsuit against Franciscan Health over their resistance to follow the Affordable Care Act. Ultimately, the court ruled that HHS cannot force Franciscan Health to “perform or provide insurance coverage for services related to gender transition or abortion” due to their differing interpretations of Section 1557.

Since then, Catholic groups have had different ways of trying to reconcile their religious beliefs and healthcare accessibility. With regards to the new policy, the Catholic Health Association stated that they support nondiscrimination and “will analyze the proposal to understand its potential effect on both patients and health care providers.” 

The USCCB also plans to continue reviewing the proposed regulation. While it is important to honor Catholic traditions and beliefs, the USCCB is actively isolating those in the LGBTQ+ community by limiting their access to healthcare. It is essential that the USCCB continues to reflect on their current relationship with the LGBTQ+ community, and they decide what a new relationship will look like going forward.

Sarah Cassidy (she/her), New Ways Ministry, August 5, 2022

2 replies
  1. Harry Isbell
    Harry Isbell says:

    Am I to understand that the USCCB one and all is unaware of The Good Samaritan? All I can shame because each of us is the keeper of our brother.


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