By Sandhya Maddali
In the midst of Pride Month and on the fourth anniversary of the Pulse nightclub shooting, the US Department of Health and Human Services enacted a change to Section 1557, effectively removing protections for trans and gender non-conforming people.
Section 1557 is a portion of the Affordable Care Act of 2010 that is geared toward shielding individuals from discrimination in “health programs and activities,” and the very last rule specifically addresses sex discrimination. Previously, sex discrimination encompassed discrimination on the basis of an individual’s sex, gender identity, sex stereotyping and pregnancy, childbirth, or related medical conditions, but the Trump administration reinterpreted this ruling, “omit[ting] the vacated language concerning gender identity and termination of pregnancy,” according to their own executive summary.
The redefinition of sex as biological eliminates the protection from discrimination for trans folk. By changing the definition of sex discrimination, the gate is opened for healthcare providers to deny care for trans folk and even people who are seeking abortions on a moral or religious basis. Especially in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, this ruling is worsening the situation for an already vulnerable population.
Transgender people already experience severe discrimination when seeking healthcare. A study conducted on a large population of transgender and gender non-conforming people in the United States by the National LGBTQ Task Force reported 19% of respondents “being refused care outright because they were transgender or gender non-conforming.” 28% of respondents also reported “very high levels of postponing medical care when sick or injured due to discrimination and disrespect.” This ruling will simply exacerbate discrimination. Though it is still possible to go to court on the grounds of discrimination in healthcare on the basis of gender identity, it will be much more difficult to be successful due to this ruling.
The Supreme Court’s historic ruling outlawing LGBTQ discrimination could make it much more difficult for these regulations to be officially implemented; although the case specifically focused on employment discrimination, the same legal interpretation could be applied to healthcare discrimination and ultimately prevent these regulations from taking effect.
Regardless of the outcome, it’s important to continue to fight and stand up for LGBTQ rights. Below is a list of petitions compiled by @enbyspidey on Twitter. Please sign them. The same user also suggested calling representatives and expressing your unease with this situation as well as reaching out to any trans/nonbinary people in your life to offer your support.