Biden HHS Rolls Back Religious Conscience Protections for Doctors

Advocates say Biden sex discrimination maneuver could 'coerce' religious physicians

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May 10, 2021

The Biden administration adopted a new rule Monday that could force Catholic hospitals, religious doctors, and other objectors to perform sex changes.

The Department of Health and Human Services announced it will expand its definition of sex discrimination to include gender identity and sexual orientation, citing the Supreme Court's controversial 2020 decision in Bostock v. Clayton County, which protected employees from discrimination on the basis of being gay or transgender.

"The Supreme Court has made clear that people have a right not to be discriminated against on the basis of sex and receive equal treatment under the law, no matter their gender identity or sexual orientation," Secretary of Health and Human Services Xavier Becerra said in a statement. "That's why today HHS announced it will act on related reports of discrimination."

The new guidance from the Biden administration rolls back Trump administration guidelines that used biology to determine sex discrimination in an effort to protect the conscience rights of medical providers. Religious liberty groups took aim at the Biden administration's new policy, saying it would coerce religious practitioners to violate their consciences.

"Coercing doctors to carry out highly controversial and unproven 'treatments' like administering puberty-blocking hormones to children and performing irreversible sex changes—against their best medical judgment and conscience—is the latest effort by the Biden administration to force anyone who dissents from its radical ideology into compliance," said Dr. Grazie Pozo Christie, policy adviser for the Catholic Association.

The guidance comes as Republican-controlled state legislatures take action to prevent health care providers from being forced to provide sex-change surgery. Thirty-one states are considering legislation to mandate that transgender individuals participate in sports that correspond with their biological sex. Twenty states are considering legislation to outlaw gender reassignment surgery for minors, and the Arkansas state legislature overrode its governor's veto to become the first state to enact such a law.

Transgender advocacy groups praised the Biden administration for protecting "life-saving care."

"With health care for transgender youth under attack by state legislatures, this move to protect LGBTQ people from discrimination in health care is critical," said Chase Strangio, deputy director for the American Civil Liberties Union LGBTQ & HIV Project.

The Biden administration has repeatedly pushed to limit the expansion of protections for religious freedom that the Trump administration instituted. Biden's attempts to deemphasize religious liberty have raised concerns among religious groups, but have drawn praise from other advocacy groups that are pushing Biden to focus on causes like LGBT rights and expanding access to abortion.

Matt Bowman, senior counsel at the Alliance Defending Freedom, said the Biden administration is "arbitrarily" redefining sex to push a political agenda.

"This action promotes dangerous procedures for minors, threatens to compel medical professionals to contradict their best medical judgment about what promotes patient health and to violate their oath to 'do no harm,' and threatens to strip professionals of their ability to continue serving vulnerable populations," Bowman said.