The U.S. Department of Health and Human
Services (HHS) on Thursday announced a new Conscience and Religious
Freedom Division in the HHS Office for Civil Rights (OCR).
The announcement was made at an event
held at HHS headquarters.
The newly formed division is being
tasked with ensuring that health care workers with religious or moral
objections are allowed to opt out of certain procedures.
The move is likely to please Christian
conservatives and other supporters of President Donald Trump.
The HHS Office for Civil Rights is
headed by Roger Severino. Acting secretary of HHS Eric Hargan and
Severino led Thursday's announcement.
LGBT rights advocate GLAAD criticized
“Denying a transgender person – or
any person – life saving care if they walk into an emergency room
is far from a moral act, it is unjust and dangerous,” GLAAD
President and CEO Sarah Kate Ellis said in a statement. “Trump,
[Vice President Mike] Pence, and Trump’s appointees have tried time
and again to establish blatantly bigoted policies that harm
transgender and gender non-conforming Americans, and history will
neither forget nor forgive this Administration’s attacks on its own
also pointed out Severino's long record of opposition to LGBT rights,
including opposition to same-sex marriage and transgender rights and
support for therapies that attempt to alter the sexuality or gender
identity of a lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender individual He's
defended his opposition to LGBT rights by saying that he's acting out
In a statement, the National LGBTQ Task
Force said that the new division is about “legalizing
“We are not fooled: The new office
announced this morning is meant to make it easier for people to
discriminate, not to protect people of faith,” said Rea Carey, the
group's executive director. “Health professionals have a duty to
care for all their patients regardless of one's gender identity,
sexual orientation, faith, creed, race, political views, gender, or
disability, and no one should be denied care for being who they are.
The Transgender Law Center (TLC)
predicted that the new policy could cost lives, adding that it would
sue the administration.
“The agency charged with protecting
our health is now inviting providers to deny life-saving medical care
to people based on who we are. Once again, the Trump-Pence
administration has shown they will do everything in their power to
undermine the health and survival of transgender people. We will see
them in court,” said Kris Hayashi, the group's executive director.