Groups laud Trump administration's rollback of Obama-era rule that redefined sex

U.S. President Donald Trump
U.S. President Donald Trump exits after speaking at a White House Mental Health Summit in the South Court Auditorium of the Eisenhower Executive Office Building at the White House on December 19, 2019, in Washington, D.C. |

Conservative groups are applauding the Trump administration's announcement on Friday that it's scrapping an Obama-era federal regulation requiring healthcare providers and insurers to perform gender-transition procedures and abortions against their medical judgment or religious convictions.

Mary Beth Waddell, a senior legislative assistant for Family Research Council, said her group "fully supports" the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services' decision as it would "ensure Obamacare isn't used as a vehicle to advance transgender or abortion politics."

The Obama administration's 2016 regulation redefined sex discrimination in Section 1557 of the Affordable Care Act to include termination of pregnancy and gender identity, which it defined as "one's internal sense of gender, which may be male, female, neither, or a combination of male and female."

HHS said in its announcement Friday that it "will enforce Section 1557 by returning to the government's interpretation of sex discrimination according to the plain meaning of the word 'sex' as male or female and as determined by biology."

After the announcement of the change in policy, long sought by religious and conservative groups, the national pro-life group Susan B. Anthony List called President Trump "the most pro-life president our nation has ever seen."

"Today he delivered another important victory for conscience in America," the network of more than 837,000 pro-life Americans nationwide said in a statement.

Dr. Grazie Pozo Christie, policy adviser for The Catholic Association, said all Americans — not only healthcare professionals who put the welfare of their patients and the integrity of science ahead of social ideologies — "can applaud the Trump Administration's move to revise HHS Section 1557."

Preventing "discrimination on the basis of sex" was intended to ensure that women are treated on par with men, Christie explained. "Changing the definition of sex to mean 'gender identity' and to include unfettered access to abortion would not have protected the vulnerable."

Instead, he continued, "it would have made it impossible for doctors to decline to perform ethically problematic procedures (like late-term abortion) and experimental and dangerous ones (like the removal of healthy organs from young patients with gender dysphoria.)"

The government, she added, should not be in the "business of social engineering," nor interfere in the way of "sound medical ethics and patient care."

Marjorie Dannenfelser, president of the SBA list, argued that abortion is not healthcare and said the government should never mandate it. "The Obama/Biden administration sought to expand abortion at every turn, even trying to reinterpret federal law to define abortion as a civil right," she said.

The group GLBTQ Legal Advocates & Defenders, or GLAD, argued that the Trump administration's interpretation of Section 1557 "contradicts" the Affordable Care Act.

"It's contrary to established case law, dangerous to transgender people, and can't survive legal challenge," GLAD's Jennifer Levi said in a statement, according to The Washington Times.

Waddell explained, however, that many people in the medical community are opposed to performing gender transition procedures because of the "severe negative, psychological, and physical impacts" suffered by patients after these operations. 

"These negative impacts have only become more apparent in the last four years since the Obama rule was adopted," she said. The Obama rule, she added, "failed to recognize the many unintended consequences to patients — particularly those identifying as transgender."

Men and women often get "different doses of medications and even different ones altogether," she explained. "Men and women sometimes exhibit different symptoms for the same disease. Treating a person differently based on their self-professed gender and not their biological make-up can be not only harmful, but deadly."

 Dannenfelser lauded Trump and HHS Secretary Alex Azar "for standing firmly on the side of the majority of Americans who reject taxpayer funding of abortion."

The 2016 regulation was not enforceable as the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Texas had vacated the rule last fall for violating the Administrative Procedure Act and the federal Religious Freedom Restoration Act. The new federal policy now complies with court rulings.

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