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Catholic health care providers sue Obama, say they’re forced to offer gender reassignment

Catholic health care providers sue Obama, say they’re forced to offer gender reassignment

Image by Marc Nozell via Flickr

A diocese and a number of Catholic organizations is suing the Obama administration over ‘forcing’ Catholic hospitals to provide gender reassignment services.

The Catholic Benefits Association (CBA), together with the Catholic Diocese of Fargo and Catholic Charities North Dakota, filed a lawsuit on Wednesday (28 December), the Catholic News Service reports.

The suit was filed over a federal regulation published by the the Department of Health and Human Services.

It implements Section 1557 of the Affordable Care Act, also known as Obamacare, which states a person cannot be subject to discrimination based on their race, color, national origin, sex, age, or disability.

The organizations are now suing because the regulations redefines ‘sex’ to include sexual orientation and gender identity for anti-discrimination purposes, which they say forces them into providing care for trans people.

‘For decades, Congress and the courts have understood the term “sex” in federal law to mean biological sex – male and female,’ Archbishop William E Lori of Baltimore, chairman of the CBA, said in a statement.

‘By redefining “sex” to mean both “gender identity” and “termination of pregnancy,” the Obama administration is not only trying to sidestep Congress and impose radical new health care mandates on hospitals and employers, it is creating a moral problem for Catholic employers that must be addressed.’

Coming into effect on 1 January, the regulation will require Catholic health care providers to offer gender transition services, hormone therapy, counseling, and gender reassignment surgery.

Speaking to Catholic news website Crux Martin Nussbaum, general counsel for the association called it an ‘extreme rule’.

He said it was ‘contrary to Catholic doctrine and values’ and ‘creates the problem for Catholic organizations’.

The CBA is made up, amongst others, of dioceses and hospitals, ‘and other entities that offer their employees insurance and benefit programs that adhere to Catholic teaching’.

Under the new regulation, group health plans will be required to cover the costs of trans people’s medical treatment.

And there is no religious exemption.

Now, the suing organizations argue the new regulation, which also requires them to offer abortions, is in violation of the religious freedom protections of the First Amendment.

‘We ask only for the freedom to serve consistent with our conscience and our Catholic faith,’ Bishop John T Folda of Fargo said in a statement.

‘While we do not discriminate against individuals because of their orientation, our Catholic values will not permit us to pay for or facilitate actions that are contrary to our faith.’

It’s not the first lawsuit against the regulation: in August, the states of Texas, Wisconsin, Nebraska, Kansas and Kentucky, as well as a group of Catholic healthcare providers, launches a federal lawsuit on the same matter.

At the time, they argued the new regulation would ‘force doctors to perform gender transition procedures on children’.

Addressing their claims was Jillian Weiss, director of the Transgender Legal Defense and Education Fund (TLDEF), who called it ‘a rule to establish parity’ and accused the plaintiffs of scaremongering.

The change could not force doctors to provide transition services they didn’t deem medically necessary.

What the rule prevents instead is general discrimination against trans people – for example basic medical treatments, or placing a trans woman with a male roommate in gender-segregated hospital rooms.

‘The only thing a doctor is obliged to do is treat all patients, including trans patients, with dignity and respect and to make treatment decisions free from bias,’ said Ezra Young, staff attorney for the TLDEF, in a statement.

‘If a doctor has a sound, evidence-based, medical reason to delay transition care for a specific patient, that would be respected under the regulations.’