Religious freedom is something we hold sacred in the United States, but the biggest challenges we face as Americans sometimes involve where one person’s rights impose on another’s.
Medical professionals come from all walks of life. Some hold religious beliefs that discourage certain behaviors. An example of this is gender reassignment surgery, which some religious doctors disagree with.
Under Obama-era laws, those doctors were obligated to carry out these procedures. However, the Trump Administration is trying to change that, and it will change the lives of many Americans seeking medical care.
A New Arm of the DHS
The Department of Health and Human Services oversees the operation of hospitals and other medical facilities in the United States. Questions of conscience are some of the most difficult matters the DHS deals with, and going forward the DHS will have an arm devoted wholly to matters of conscience and religious freedom.
The Conscience and Religious Freedom Division will “vigorously and effectively enforce existing laws protecting the rights of conscience and religious freedom,” specifically concerning “certain federal nondiscrimination laws that prohibit discrimination by religion in a variety of HHS programs.”
It might sound imposing when the complicated legal speak is used, but you don’t need a doctorate to see the obvious question here. What about patients?
Who This Affects
Transgender people and those seeking abortions will be the most profoundly affected by this law. Considering that these procedures have been declared legal in the United States, there is a conflict in giving doctors the option to turn down care patients have a right to. Particularly when many patients don’t have the luxury of seeking out care from another provider under their insurance.
But wait, you say. Why would you want a doctor who is opposed to the idea of an operation to carry it out? Medical negligence law protects you from malpractice motivated by a doctor’s personal beliefs. You should never have to walk into an operation fearful that someone will ruin it out of personal spite.
No law exists, however, to protect against the repercussions that being turned down for a procedure can have. The adversity these people have faced in getting care — even regular care for things like backaches and nausea — has led to suicides.
You Chose to Be a Doctor
Cases where a doctor lacks the proper medical credentials notwithstanding, if a provider chooses to deny care, it is a violation of the Hippocratic Oath all doctors take. Religious liberties are fine insofar as they affect one’s own life, and they should be defended from those who would seek to steal them away.
Treating a patient who has made the already difficult decision to undergo gender reassignment surgery does not impede on a doctor’s ability to practice their religion. Whether or not it makes them uncomfortable for religious reasons is unfortunate, but how is it we see fit to compromise on this matter by siding with a tiny contingent of doctors in a way that potentially affects thousands of patients?
Is there even a precedent for this new arm to defend religious freedoms for any group other than Christian doctors? There has never once been a conversation about the moral positions of Muslim or Hindu doctors on administering specific procedures, and in a country where 80 percent of people identify as Christian, it’s hard to imagine the DHS raising questions about concerns for other religious groups.
Trump Takes Another Swing at Progress
Denying the freedoms of minority groups seems to be a critical part of the Trump administration’s agenda, and it’s hard to see what motivates that other than a need to restore a certain level of comfort for white Christians who feel their status quo is being disrupted.
In a nation that has mostly benefitted from the efforts of immigrants and minority groups, it is so sad to see people stand by as we continue to defy the ideals this country supposedly stands on. This is not making America great, it is divisive, malicious policy that panders to the insecure, white elite.