In what is sure to be overshadowed by the looming government shutdown and Subpoena Steve’s efforts to stick it to the House Intelligence Committee, Thursday will mark an official policy shift within the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) civil rights office. Trump-appointed Roger Severino in cahoots with the administration will spearhead the effort to protect health workers who would like to decline services, like abortions and treatment of transgender individuals, on religious and moral grounds. Of all the civil rights problems the HHS could be working on, THIS IS SEVERINO’S PRIORITY. This unsavory development comes when all sorts of narrow-minded Christians—who have had every accommodation given to THEM since day one—are claiming the freedom of religion First Amendment clause as legal grounds to dismiss the rights of LGBTQ and women citizens.
Severino now heads the civil rights office of the HHS, but is somehow missing the big picture that the S in HHS stands for Services, meaning the department was established to serve all the nation’s humans in their pursuit of health. Incredibly, his interpretation of the civil rights office purpose is that the office is there to protect department health care workers (whose salaries are provided by taxpayers) who would like to refuse SERVICE to taxpayers who might need an abortion or need medical care in relation to gender transition.
Unfortunately, the mood of the HHS didn’t suddenly change when Severino showed up: apparently department leaders were unhappy with the Obama administration’s rolling back of George W. Bush regulations (Republicans don’t like regulations unless it relates to the Christian Right). Obama-era policies included transgender protections in contrast to W’s administration, that gave the health care workers legal protection if they refused to do their job unequally because of “moral” objections—forgetting that discrimination is immoral. Even Jesus cleansed a leper, you stupid churchies.
Yet here we are again, forced back to a darker age.
“This is the use of religion to hurt people because you disapprove of who they are,” said Harper Jean Tobin of the National Center for Transgender Equality. “Any rule that grants a license to discriminate would be a disgrace and a mockery of the principal of religious freedom we all cherish.”
Severino has a long history of opposing LGBTQ protections. He emerged from The Heritage Foundation, the ultra-conservative Washington D.C. think tank of which RebeKKKah Mercer is a board member.
“On the basis of religious teachings, moral reasoning, scientific evidence, and medical experience, many have strong grounds to hold that one’s sex is an immutable characteristic,” Severino wrote in a “report” along with another Heritage flunkie as recently as January 2016. “Many involved in providing medical care and those enrolled in health insurance plans have serious objections to participating in or paying for sex-reassignment surgeries or gender transitions.”
At Heritage, Severino was Director of the DeVos Center for Religion and Civil Society, Institute for Family, Community, and Opportunity. The name DeVos is directly related to the worst ever U.S. Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos and the Amway (don’t buy their shitty cleaning products ever) family she married into.
Curiously whenever there is a rollback on protections for folks that are not approved of by the Religious Right, the GOP tries to coincide the announcement with the anti-abortion March for Life gathering in D.C., which happens this Friday.
So this really is the evil cabal to battle in court for patient and LGBTQ rights.
“Should the administration choose to move forward to implement a discriminatory policy, we will see them in court,” stated Louise Melling of the American Civil Liberties Union.