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Discriminatory Conscience and Religious Freedom Division Proposed Rule Threatens Our Most Vulnerable Communities

January 19, 2018 – Treatment Action Group is alarmed by recent actions taken by the Trump administration to subvert the health and wellbeing of women, transgender individuals, and marginalized communities in America. At a time where science has made it possible to end the HIV, hepatitis C, and tuberculosis epidemics in our country, the anti-health, anti-science politics of the GOP and the White House are aggressively undermining what should otherwise be a proactive time in reducing the substantial national burden of these three diseases.

The proposed rule creating the “Conscience and Religious Freedom” Division of the Office for Civil Rights elevates a false narrative that equates discrimination with the vague, ill-defined notion of “religious conscience” and has the potential to dramatically endanger the lives of the women and LGBTQ individuals it is meant to target. 

Whereas the administration claims the new division will be limited in its scope – defending health care providers with religious objections to medical abortion or assisted suicide – it will go beyond further polarization of the personal health needs of women and the terminally ill. It borrows acrimonious terminology from state-level “religious freedom” initiatives to deny any number of services to transgender people and other members of the LGBTQ community. Such discrimination flies in the face of the foundational commitment by medical professionals to “do no harm.”

That an administration aggressively promoting deplorable, racist treatment of immigrants and political refugees has the audacity to proclaim itself a champion of “moral conscience” is no less absurd.

This move should be interpreted as further proof that any conscience the Trump administration may possess vanishes when addressing the rights and wellbeing of women, of LGBTQ people, and of black and brown people. It dramatically furthers a year-long war waged by the administration and Congressional Republicans to ensure that healthcare remains accessible only for the most privileged and wealthy in America and builds upon recent efforts to impose burdensome work requirements on Medicaid recipients, to eliminate LGBTQ visibility in national statistics and CDC grant applications, and to destabilize the Affordable Care Act.

May this latest attack on vulnerable communities lead all advocates for health equity in America to redouble our efforts in resisting all attempts by the Trump Administration and the GOP to worsen health disparities and sabotage healthcare access.