Press Release

Jewish Democrats denounce new HHS rules discriminating against LGBT people

January 19, 2018

Jewish Democrats Denounce New HHS Rules Discriminating Against LGBT People
New rules from Department of Health and Human Services threaten well-being of LGBT Americans

Washington, D.C. — The Jewish Democratic Council of America (JDCA) vigorously opposes new rules from the Department of Health and Human Services that would allow medical personnel to deny care to LGBT patients. The regulations, part of the administration’s bid to further play to its far-right base, could permit health care workers to refuse to provide fertility treatments for lesbian couples and gender reassignment surgery for transgender individuals. It could lead to pharmacists turning away customers looking to fill prescriptions for contraceptives, and greater barriers to women exercising their right to choose. It might have other consequences for the health of vulnerable populations that are not apparent to us right now.

The administration has framed these regulations, the details of which are now being drafted, as a so-called effort to protect religious freedom. It is no such thing. There is perhaps no community for whom religious freedom is so cherished and necessary as America’s Jewish community. But we also know deeply the evil that results when harms are perpetrated on others in the name of religion.  Religious freedom should not be confused with a license for hatred and discrimination. Only an unprecedented and partisan understanding of religious liberty could lead one to think conscience protections cover the right of individuals acting in a professional context in non-sectarian institutions to refuse care to patients based on their identity.

For the LGBT community, whose civil rights are still not fully secured, the administration’s decision surfaces painful memories of being denied medical care. During the AIDS crisis, some doctors refused to treat AIDS patients, due to homophobia and unfounded worries of contagion. Even today, studies show that many LGBT patients are afraid to frankly discuss their identities with medical professionals, even when it impacts their own health, for fear of judgment. We stand with the LGBT community and with all women in rejecting these odious rules, and call on Acting Health and Human Services Secretary Eric Hargan to immediately rescind them.