Thursday, March 19, 2009

TAKE ACTION: Urge the Obama Administration to Rescind the Harmful “Provider Conscience” Regulations.

In the final days of the Bush Administration, harmful regulations that could limit LGBT patients’ access to health care services were rushed through the Department of Health and Human Services (“HHS”). The regulations purport to interpret federal law to allow a health care provider to refuse to provide any health care service or information for a religious or moral reason. These regulations could impair LGBT patients’ access to care services if interpreted to permit providers to choose patients based upon sexual orientation, gender identity or family structure.

Now, the Obama Administration is considering rescinding these regulations and we need everyone to speak out. HRC fought enactment of these regulations and has asked the Administration to rescind these regulations in their entirety.

The Department of Health and Human Services has issued a “proposed rule” that would rescind these harmful regulations. The next step in the rule making process is allowing for public comment. We are encouraging HRC members and supporters to tell HHS that a patient’s access to health care services should not depend on their sexual orientation or gender identity. The public can submit their comments to HHS through April 9 by emailing

TAKE ACTION: Cut and paste the text of the letter below into an MS Word document (.doc) and email it as an attachment to

Here is a sample letter:

March, 2009

Office of Public Health and Science
Department of Health and Human Services
Attention: Rescission Proposal Comments
Hubert H. Humphrey Building
200 Independence Avenue, S.W.
Room 716G
Washington, DC 20201

Thank you for the opportunity to provide comments to the Department of Health and Human Service’s Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (“NPRM”) with regard to rescission of the “Provider Conscience Regulation.” I support the right of all people to access health services without discrimination. Because these regulations could interfere with access to health care and promote discrimination against the very patients that federal funds are meant to serve, I urge the Department of Health and Human Services to rescind these regulations in their entirety.

I am concerned these regulations could limit the LGBT community’s access to services. The regulations state that the existing religious refusal clause allows a health care provider to refuse to assist in the performance of any service with which they have a religious or moral objection. Creating such a blanket right to refuse could severely impair the LGBT community’s ability to obtain health services.

Furthermore, the regulations do not require that patients are informed of their treatment options. Under the regulations, a doctor may refuse to administer an HIV test to a patient because he is gay. In fact, the doctor could not only refuse this service, but decline to tell the patient where he would be able to obtain testing. Clearly, this puts the health of the patient, and potentially that of others, at risk. The regulations allow counselors to refuse to counsel same-sex couples or a pharmacist to refuse to fill a prescription for hormone replacement therapy for a transgender customer.

The regulations clarify that any entity that receives HHS funding must allow this exemption. The regulations cover hundreds of hospitals, universities and public health programs serving millions of citizens across the fifty states. As a result, they preempt state and local anti-discrimination laws. They also preempt individual employer policies protecting against non-discrimination. Consequently, patients could not be guaranteed access to health care.

Protecting the free exercise of one’s personal religious beliefs is an important public policy goal. However, no American should face discrimination in the healthcare system simply because of his or her sexual orientation or gender identity. Because these regulations tip the balance away from patients’ access to health services, I urge HHS to rescind the regulations in their entirety.




Anonymous said...

I sent the email and posted this story on my blog as well.

Thanks for the info.

T. R Xands said...

Huh, I thought he'd already rescinded? Or I guess it's just still in the considering stages...auugh I hate it when I get news mixed up.

Queers United said...

Maybe you are thinking of stem cells?

T. R Xands said...

I think I am...oh well, miffed letter sent regardless.

Merlyn said...

The fact that a rule such as the one which will hopefully be completely rescinded shows the depths of hatred and contempt felt for us by the right-wing in this country. It would seem that the right-wing felt the need to settle some scores and ergo, this "freedom of conscience rule.

More and more my spouse and I are considering moving to Canada as we are becoming completely disgusted with the pandering to the right wing. There is no need for "discussion" in this--just rescind the damned thing and if the fundies and right-wingers don't like it, they can bugger off!

Sea_creature said...

OOOOOO this PISSES me off! I sent the letter!

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