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UNITED STATES, June 15, 2020 (LifeSiteNews) — On Friday the Trump administration announced the reversal of a 2016 “anti-discrimination” rule which would have required healthcare providers receiving federal funds to perform “gender transition” operations and abortions.

In May 2016 the Obama administration redefined “sex discrimination” in section 1557 of the Affordable Care Act (ACA) to include an individual’s “internal sense of gender, which may be male, female, neither, or a combination of male and female.” The 2016 rule also included “termination of pregnancy” in its definition of sex discrimination. 

The Obama-era regulations implied that medical providers would have to commit abortions and treat patients based on their asserted “gender identity” or risk losing government aid, along with facing a possible referral to the Department of Justice for legal action. 

In December 2016 a federal court issued a nationwide injunction which blocked the enforcement of the Obama regulations on the grounds that they were likely to be contrary to civil rights laws and laws protecting religious freedom. This ruling was subsequently upheld by a second federal court in 2019, which found the regulations to be unlawful.

And now the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) has announced that they will “enforce Section 1557 by returning to the government’s interpretation of sex discrimination according to the plain meaning of the word ‘sex’ as male or female and as determined by biology.”

The HHS said that the move “maintains vigorous enforcement of federal civil rights laws on the basis of race, color, national origin, disability, age, and sex, and restores the rule of law by revising certain provisions that go beyond the plain meaning of the law as enacted by Congress.”

While Friday’s new HHS regulation is a victory for religious liberty and conscience rights in healthcare, this morning the U.S. Supreme Court dealt social conservatives a significant blow by ruling that Title VII’s prohibition of sex discrimination in employment also outlaws discrimination based on “sexual orientation” and “gender identity.”

The United States Conference of Catholic Bishops’ (USCCB) praised Friday’s announcement from HHS. 

“We thank the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) for promulgating regulations restoring the long-standing position of the federal government that discrimination on the basis of ‘sex’ means just that and does not refer to ‘termination of pregnancy’ nor ‘gender identity,’” the USCCB said in a statement.

“These regulations will help restore the rights of health care providers – as well as insurers and employers – who decline to perform or cover abortions or ‘gender transition’ procedures due to ethical or professional objections. Catholic health care providers serve everyone who comes to them, regardless of characteristics or background. However, there are ethical considerations when it comes to procedures. We greatly appreciate [this] important action,” the bishops continued.

Medicine not rooted in biological reality ‘can be not only harmful, but deadly’

Pro-life and pro-family groups across the United States also applauded the finalized rule.

Terry Schilling, executive director of the American Principles Project, said that the Trump administration affirmed a basic, self-evident truth that sex is biologically determined — that men are men, and women are women.

“Although this truth used to be universally acknowledged, the radical Left has lately cowed Democrats and cultural elites into denying reality and instead accepting the ridiculous assertion that maleness and femaleness have no basis in biology. This is not science — it’s pure ideology, and it should have no place in federal policy. Thank goodness there are at least some still left in Washington brave enough to fight this insanity,” Schilling said.

Susan B. Anthony List President Marjorie Dannenfelser called the move “another important victory for conscience in America.” 

“Abortion is not health care and should never be mandated by the government,” Dannenfelser said. “The Obama/Biden administration sought to expand abortion at every turn, even trying to reinterpret federal law to define abortion as a civil right.” 

“We thank President Trump and Secretary Azar for standing firmly on the side of the majority of Americans who reject taxpayer funding of abortion, and for the action taken today to roll back the Obama/Biden-era assault on conscience.”

Mary Beth Waddell, who serves as the Senior Legislative Assistant for the Family Research Council, said the new rule will “protect health care providers from being forced to participate in and perform services that substantially violate their consciences and help protect their patients.”

“The Obama rule failed to recognize the many unintended consequences to patients – particularly those identifying as transgender,” Waddell said. 

“For example, men and women often get different doses of medications and even different ones altogether. Men and women sometimes exhibit different symptoms for the same disease. Treating a person differently based on their self-professed gender and not their biological make-up can be not only harmful, but deadly.”