A woman enters a hospital and walks up to the front desk, nervous and worried. She relays her health concerns to the receptionist and is sent to fill out paperwork. After returning the forms, she’s told the hospital won’t help her. Why?
This could become a true story if the White House rewrites section 1557 of Obama’s Affordable Care Act to repeal important nondiscrimination and human rights protections. In recent years, the Trump-Pence administration has worked to pass a bill that would allow doctors, hospitals, insurance companies and other healthcare institutions to refuse service to LGBTQ citizens on the basis of discrimination.
While the bill has been public knowledge since its proposal in May 2019, the Trump administration has attempted to quietly pass it during the pandemic.
The Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) said these changes were proposed to address legal concerns, keep its regulations consistent with other civil rights provisions and reduce costs.
Budget cuts aren’t worth the innumerable amount of lives that would be destroyed by this bill.
According to the Kaiser Family Foundation (KFF), the proposed changes would remove “gender identity and sex stereotyping from the definition of prohibited sex-based discrimination,” meaning someone who’s transgender or doesn’t conform to sex stereotypes can be denied service.
The KFF gave an example of what this could mean for LGBTQ individuals. Under the proposed provisions, health insurance companies could deny coverage or impose greater costs to a transgender man with ovarian cancer, simply because of his gender identity. The same is true for other services that are typically sought by people of the opposite gender of whoever is seeking treatment, which could be a huge and traumatic problem for transgender people.
Not only will discrimination against sex and gender identity be permitted, but healthcare providers can be exempt from complying with the prohibitions on sex discrimination if doing so would involve an abortion or conflict with an organization’s religious views. This is unconstitutional — no matter one’s identity or religious beliefs, everyone should have healthcare available when they’re in need.
This bill would cost lives. In 2017, an NPR poll revealed that 22% of transgender people avoid going to the doctor in fear of discrimination. Furthermore, 31% of transgender Americans said they had no access to healthcare at all.
Trump’s bill would cause these numbers to skyrocket. Those who already fear going to the doctor will have more difficulty, never knowing if they’ll be turned away because of their sex or gender identity. The bill would allow hospitals to legally turn away LGBTQ people. Not only can healthcare providers refuse to help them, but these people won’t be able to retaliate with a lawsuit.
While people are entitled to their own opinion about the LGBTQ community, whether it’s a religious belief or otherwise, it should be just that — their personal opinion. The Trump administration has unconstitutionally incorporated these personal opinions when making laws.
An example of this comes from a decision made just two days before the proposal to rewrite section 1557, when the government moved to let federally funded homeless shelters refuse to help transgender people.
Even if the world was normal right now, this bill would harm an unthinkable number of LGBTQ people. However, in the midst of a global pandemic with a daily rising death toll, passing this bill would be devastating. All Americans, regardless of their sex, gender or sexual identity, should have the right to visit a doctor.
LGBTQ people often experience higher levels of poverty and homelessness as well. They make up anywhere from 20-40% of homeless youth. LGBTQ people who are homeless or in poverty may not have a home to quarantine in or may be forced to work during the pandemic so they can pay rent. They’re in more danger of being exposed to COVID-19.
The amount of coronavirus cases has only just started to decrease, and it’s evident that this is nowhere near over. With a pandemic raging throughout the country and the globe, it’s important to ensure that we take care of everyone we can. We, as Americans, need to help our neighbors and spread love, acceptance and positivity during these tough times.
That’s why it’s especially unnerving that the White House has tried to quietly pass this bill. In a nationwide emergency, we would hope that our government would be doing everything possible to protect its citizens. Instead, the Trump administration has been pushing the bill forward while the mainstream media is distracted, filled to the brim with news of COVID-19.
State legislatures have dealt with many anti-LGBTQ bills. In 2020 alone, a startling number of more than 40 bills — some passed and some blocked — threaten the rights of transgender people to receive healthcare and even participate in athletics
For what? Allowing LGBTQ people access to lifesaving healthcare doesn’t harm anyone. Most straight and cisgender Americans, regardless of wealth and social status, have healthcare more readily accessible to them. So, why can’t we as a society extend these same rights to LGBTQ people?
The only outcome of rewriting this bill is the harm and deaths of LGBTQ Americans. There’s no “pro” or silver lining. To pass this bill would be to legalize the discrimination and harm of what’s estimated to be more than 4.5% of the U.S. population, not to mention the trauma that could occur when someone’s denied help because of their identity.
The Trump administration’s attempts to deny basic human rights to LGBTQ Americans essentially denies their existence as people.
It’s prejudiced. It’s dehumanizing. It’s unconstitutional.
In a country that advertises itself to provide acceptance and equality for all, many measures that prevent nondiscrimination are under attack. The rewriting of section 1557 would be dangerous at any time, but to pass this bill during a worldwide health crisis is outright cruel.
Charlotte Matherly is a sophomore media arts and design major. Contact Charlotte at firstname.lastname@example.org.