The Trump administration announced plans to roll back an Obamacare non-discrimination regulation that redefined discrimination “on the basis of sex” to include both gender identity and the termination of pregnancy, i.e. abortion.
In a Friday morning press call, Office of Civil Rights Director Roger Severino at the Department of Health and Human Services told reporters that the agency would move forward on reform of a rule enforcing section 1557 of Obamacare. The current regulation in question was issued during the waning months of the Obama administration in 2016, but blocked by federal judges before it could take effect.
“Plaintiffs will be forced to either violate their religious beliefs or maintain their current policies, which seem to be in direct conflict with the rule and risk the severe consequences of enforcement,” federal Judge Reed O’Connor wrote at the time.
To date, Severino explained Friday, the department during the previous and current administrations has been enjoined from enacting the Obama-era rule and now plans to replace it, bringing the department’s official enforcement mechanisms back in line with the original intent of the legislation passed by Congress.
“When Congress prohibited sex discrimination, it did so according to the plain meaning of the term, and we are making our regulations conform,” Severino explained in a statement.
“The American people want vigorous protection of civil rights and faithfulness to the text of the laws passed by their representatives,” the statement continues. “The proposed rule would accomplish both goals.”
The administration also claims that the announced rule change would come with the added benefit of saving the American taxpayer over $3 billion per year in regulatory compliance costs alone. An HHS fact sheet explains that the costs come from a part of the 2016 regulation that requires that “every significant publication in healthcare larger than a postcard sent to a member of the public” has to include a notice of non-discrimination and another notice translated into at least 15 different foreign languages.
The added postage and paper cost for those notices adds up, Severino says, but the notices have proven ineffective at their intended purpose of ensuring that people who speak other languages are more informed about health care policy.
“As a child of Hispanic immigrants, I know how vitally important it is that people receive quality healthcare services regardless of the language they speak, and this proposal grants providers the needed flexibility for achieving that goal,” Severino’s statement says, adding, “The American people are tired of unnecessary regulations getting in the way of access to affordable healthcare.”
Elsewhere in the administration, the Department of Housing and Urban Development also announced a rule change that would eliminate an Obama-era regulation transgender mandate requiring HUD homeless shelters to accommodate people based on gender identity rather than sex.
Democratic efforts to redefine sex discrimination to include gender identity and abortion protections didn’t end with the Obama administration; they’ve simply moved their fight from the executive branch to the legislative.
The Democrat-controlled House recently passed the “Equality Act,” which seeks to rewrite the definition of sex discrimination in federal civil rights law; it would also create a “a universal right to abortion, up until birth,” according to one Republican congresswoman.