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Religious Refusals in Health Care: A Prescription for Disaster

The Bottom Line

Freedom of religion is an important American value, which is why it is already protected by the First Amendment of the Constitution. That freedom doesn’t give people the right to impose their beliefs on others or to discriminate.

In January 2018, the Trump Administration’s announcement of a new Conscience and Religious Freedom Division within the Department of Health and Human Services, and proposed rules that seek to radically expand the ability of health care providers to deny patients care based on religious or moral beliefs. In response, the Movement Advancement Project (MAP) and the National Center for Transgender Equality (NCTE) released  a new report, Religious Refusals in Health Care: A Prescription for Disaster. The report examines the coordinated efforts to allow medical providers to legally discriminate and deny needed care—from the recent actions at the federal level to the lack of nondiscrimination protections at the state level.

Religious Refusals in Health Care: A Prescription for Disaster outlines the key types of health care which will be at risk if providers are able to refuse treatment and choose which patients they wish to serve, resulting in broad and dangerous harms, including:

  • Creating a health care system when patients' health comes second to health care providers' personal beliefs.
    Restricting access to a wide range of reproductive health care, including emergency care.
  • Allowing healthcare providers to limit information shared with patients.
  • Refusing health care for patients because of who they are, including women, transgender people, LGBT people, and children of LGBT parents.
  • Permitting refusals of care for sexual health, including sexually-transmitted infection and HIV-related health care.
Recommended citation:
Movement Advancement Project and National Center for Transgender Equality. March 2018. Religious Refusals in Health Care: A Prescription for Disaster. (date of access).

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Sexual Orientation Policy Tally

The term “sexual orientation” is loosely defined as a person’s pattern of romantic or sexual attraction to people of the opposite sex or gender, the same sex or gender, or more than one sex or gender. Laws that explicitly mention sexual orientation primarily protect or harm lesbian, gay, and bisexual people. That said, transgender people who are lesbian, gay or bisexual can be affected by laws that explicitly mention sexual orientation.

Gender Identity Policy Tally

“Gender identity” is a person’s deeply-felt inner sense of being male, female, or something else or in-between. “Gender expression” refers to a person’s characteristics and behaviors such as appearance, dress, mannerisms and speech patterns that can be described as masculine, feminine, or something else. Gender identity and expression are independent of sexual orientation, and transgender people may identify as heterosexual, lesbian, gay or bisexual. Laws that explicitly mention “gender identity” or “gender identity and expression” primarily protect or harm transgender people. These laws also can apply to people who are not transgender, but whose sense of gender or manner of dress does not adhere to gender stereotypes.

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