In a move applauded by President Trump's conservative religious base, his administration on Friday finalized a rule that overturns Obama-era protections for transgender people against sex discrimination in health care. The Department of Health and Human Services says it will enforce sex discrimination protections "according to the plain meaning of the word 'sex' as male or female and as determined by biology." This rewrites an Obama-era regulation that sought a broader understanding shaped by a person's internal sense of being male, female, neither, or a combination, per the AP. LGBTQ groups say explicit protections are needed for people seeking sex-reassignment treatment, and even for transgender people who need care for common illnesses such as diabetes or heart problems. Conservatives, however, say the Obama administration exceeded its legal authority in broadly interpreting gender.
The reversal comes in the middle of LGBTQ Pride Month. Friday was also the four-year anniversary of the mass shooting at the Pulse gay nightclub in Orlando, Fla. "Under the old Obama rule, medical professionals could have been forced to facilitate gender reassignment surgeries and abortions, even if they believed this was a violation of their conscience or believed it harmful to the patient," says a rep from the religious conservative Family Research Council. American Medical Association President Susan Bailey disagrees, saying, "The federal government should never make it more difficult for individuals to access health care, during a pandemic or any other time." Women's groups say the new regulations also undermine access to abortion. The ACLU says it will try to prevent the rollback of protections for transgender people, while the LGBTQ civil rights group Lambda Legal says it will sue.