The Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) under the ostensibly Catholic president of the United States, Joe Biden, is considering the adoption of new regulations that may endanger the religious liberty of Catholic health care providers.
According to court documents obtained by the National Catholic Register, the HHS is actively developing a new “rule” which does away with a Trump administration rule protecting health care providers that do not wish to comply with abortion and “gender transition” mandates.
The Register reports that the new rule would likely “expand the scope of what discrimination on ‘the basis of sex’ means under the Affordable Care Act (ACA).” As noted in the report, a 2016 rule under President Barack Obama mandated insurance coverage for “sex change operations” and obligated doctors to perform these surgeries or make referrals, even if they held sincere religious convictions against them.
In February, employers belonging to the Catholic Benefits Association obtained permanent injunctive relief from the 2016 rule, though as of now it is unclear how the association will be impacted by the potential implementation of the new rule, which may still undergo revisions.
The plan under HHS consideration has been a collaborative effort, with Planned Parenthood Federation of America, the Southern Poverty Law Center, the Center for American Progress, and the Human Rights Campaign involved, according to the Register.
A memo outlining the plan shows it to be comprehensive in scope and dismissive of any religious exemptions.
“Among [the memo’s] demands are mandatory coverage and performance of gender-transition services, including cross-sex hormones, sex-reassignment surgeries, cosmetic surgeries, voice modification and fertility treatments for infertile couples, same-sex couples and some single persons,” the report reads.
“The memo also demands fertility treatments not just for infertile couples but for those who are ‘socially infertile.’ The ‘socially infertile’ includes same-sex couples and single persons,” it adds.
Archbishop William Lori of Baltimore and Douglas Wilson — chairman of the board and CEO of the Catholic Benefits Association, respectively — had strong reactions to the proposed rule.
“I think it is important that dioceses, religious orders and Catholic apostolates of all kinds be aware early on this is coming down the track. And it is not simply about covering things in our insurance plans, objectionable as that is, but it’s also about the providing of [objectionable] services, particularly on the part of our health-care ministries,” Archbishop Lori told the Register.
“[The HHS memo] would effectively remove all religious considerations from issues around life, family, marriage, the very nature of men and women,” warned Wilson in a comment to the Register. “There’s no place to hide from this.”