The Biden administration’s proposal to force hospitals and doctors to perform gender-transition surgeries is “misguided” and should be reconsidered, two cardinals wrote Monday in an article published in America Magazine.
“Under this new proposed rule, it would be considered discrimination for a health care facility or worker to object to performing gender transition procedures, regardless of whether that objection is a matter of sincerely held religious belief or clinical judgment,” Cardinals Blase Cupich of Chicago and Timothy Dolan of New York wrote in a Sept. 26 statement.
“This is government coercion that intrudes on the religious freedom of faith-based health care facilities. Such a mandate threatens the conscience rights of all health care providers and workers who have discerned that participating in, or facilitating, gender transition procedures is contrary to their own beliefs.”
The rule proposed by the Department of Health and Human Services would apply to any health care program or activity that receives federal funding. It would add sexual orientation and gender identity to the nondiscrimination provision of the Affordable Care Act, Section 1557.
It would reverse Trump-era conscience protections that sought to allow medical professionals to opt out of performing procedures contrary to their beliefs.
Cupich and Dolan said that Section 1557 “rightly prohibits discrimination on the basis of sex in health care. We wholeheartedly support all efforts to ensure that everyone, without exception, receives the best health care that is their due.”
They emphasized that at Catholic hospitals, “all people who come to us, no matter their age, sex, racial or ethnic background, or religion,” as well as “people who identify as transgender,” “will receive the same treatment as any other patient.”
“Catholic hospitals do not discriminate against anyone and to do so would be offensive to the embracing and expansive healing ministry of Jesus Christ,” the cardinals wrote. “However, if health care facilities are to be places where the twin pillars of faith and science stand together, then these facilities and their workers must not be coerced by the government to violate their consciences.”
“Does objecting to performing gender transition procedures — but welcoming patients who identify as transgender — constitute discrimination? Of course not. The focus of such an objection is completely on the procedure, not the patient,” they wrote. “Prohibiting the removal of a healthy, functioning organ is not discrimination, provided that the same determination would be made for anyone of any sex or gender, which is true at Catholic hospitals.”
The cardinals said that “People of many faiths, or of no faith yet with deep personal convictions, may find these procedures profoundly troubling, and their constitutional rights deserve to be respected. In a society that protects the free exercise of religion, religious health care providers cannot be expected to violate the teachings of their religion as a condition of continuing their care, and religious health care workers cannot be expected to violate their consciences as a condition of employment.”
The proposed rule “does not codify the rights of faith-based providers to decline procedures based on conscience, as other federal laws do,” according to Cupich and Dolan. “Rather, it holds that H.H.S. reserves the right to decide whether, despite those existing conscience protections, it can force faith-based providers to violate their beliefs.”
Noting that courts have ruled that similar mandates violate religious freedom, and the administration “is currently fighting” those rulings, they said that “it is reasonable to lack confidence in the department’s commitment to construing these laws to provide appropriately robust conscience protections.”
“We support H.H.S.’s efforts to ensure all people receive high-quality health care,” the cardinals wrote. “We have long proposed moral principles for discerning health care policy: It should respect the life and dignity of every person, be accessible to all, honor conscience rights, be truly affordable, and be comprehensive and of high quality.”
“By the same token,” they added, “Catholic hospitals and health care workers should not be punished because of their religious convictions or clinical judgments. We urge H.H.S. to reconsider its misguided mandate.”