A Roman Catholic diocese and an organization of Catholic businesses are suing the Obama administration over a federal rule imposed under the Affordable Care Act (also known as Obamacare) which forces Catholic hospitals and doctors to perform gender reassignment surgery (and forces Catholic employers to pay for it) against their faith and scientific judgment.
The Catholic Benefits Association (CBA) and the Catholic Diocese of Fargo, North Dakota filed a lawsuit Wednesday in North Dakota District Court. This latest salvo in the battle over LGBT “rights” versus religious freedom underscores the rule change in federal agencies, where bans on discrimination on the basis of “sex” have been expanded to protect those who identify as transgender.
“For decades, Congress and the courts have understood the term ‘sex’ in federal law to mean biological sex — male and female,” explained CBA Chairman Archbishop William Lori in a statement Wednesday. “By redefining ‘sex’ to mean both ‘gender identity’ and ‘termination of pregnancy,’ the Obama administration is not only trying to sidestep Congress and impose radical new healthcare mandates on hospitals and employers, it is creating a moral problem for Catholic employers that must be addressed.”
CBA consists of over 880 Catholic employers, including hospitals, colleges, religious orders, businesses, and over 60 archdioceses and dioceses, as well as over 5,000 parishes. Together, the group covers over 90,000 employees and their families.
CBA’s press release cited Pope Francis’ teachings on abortion and transgenderism, quickly explaining why Roman Catholics cannot accept transgender ideology. Any “gender theory” stating that gender is mutable or fluid “does not recognize the order of creation,” Francis declared in 2015. In October, he called transgender ideology “a global war against the family.”
In May, the U.S. Justice Department sent a letter to North Carolina Governor Pat McCrory arguing that H.B. 2, a law reserving men’s and women’s restrooms and changing rooms for biological men and women, discriminated against transgender people on the basis of sex.
The official position of the Obama administration is that refusing to treat a male who identifies as female or a female who identifies as male according to his or her transgender identity is discrimination. Allowing transgender individuals to use the restroom of the opposite sex is one thing — even this limited policy has allowed voyeurs to sneak into women’s restrooms at Target stores — but this attitude becomes even more tricky when applied to health care.
Is gender transition surgery — the practice of removing healthy sexual organs and replacing them with (or transforming them into) organs of the opposite sex — to be considered health care? If a doctor believes that gender dysphoria (the feeling that you are a man trapped in a woman’s body, or vice versa) should be considered a mental illness rather than a sexual identity, does he not violate his conscience by performing such surgery? Should he be forced to violate his conscience? Shouldn’t he be protected under the banner of religious freedom or freedom of conscience?
Not according to the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS). In explaining Section 1557 of the Affordable Care Act, the HHS website explicitly condemns the living out of Catholic doctrine on transgenderism:
Explicit categorical exclusions in coverage for all health care services related to gender transition are facially discriminatory. Other exclusions for gender transition care will be evaluated on a case-by-case basis.
In other words, it does not matter if a doctor or health care institution accepts the Roman Catholic belief (and scientific stance, supported by many studies) that transgender identity is a rejection of God’s natural design and that transgender surgery constitutes harming healthy sexual organs. Denying transgender surgery in principle is “facially discriminatory,” or discriminatory on its face.
Furthermore, Catholic employers have to provide coverage for transgender surgery under Obamacare — effectively paying for something they believe to be physically harmful to their employees.
“Among the newly mandated procedures are a penectomy (removal of penis), metoidioplasty (creation of penis, using clitoris), vaginectomy (removal of vagina), and vulvectomy (removal of vulva),” the CBA explained in its press release. The idea that these are medical services mandated to be covered as “health care” seems cringeworthy.
Ironically, the Obama administration does not even follow this rule for its own health coverage. “HHS’s own experts agree that these procedures can harm patients with gender dysphoria in ways that are often irreversible,” CBA CEO Douglas Wilson declared in a statement. “So, even as HHS is requiring doctors to perform these surgeries, it has chosen not to mandate coverage of the same procedures in Medicare and Medicaid.”
“This is blatant hypocrisy coupled with shoddy science,” Wilson declared.
LGBT groups argued that the health rule offers critical protections for transgender people who struggle to receive appropriate care from physicians and hospitals. “What the rule says is if you provide a particular service to anybody, you can’t refuse to provide it to anyone,” Sarah Warbelow, the legal director for the Human Rights Campaign, told The Washington Post.
Warbelow argued that transgender people are denied care at the emergency room, even with problems as basic as a twisted ankle. Besides this basic injustice, which Catholic doctors and hospitals would not defend, Warbelow added that the HHS rule means that if a doctor provides breast reconstruction surgery or hormone therapy, those services cannot be denied to transgender patients.
While these arguments are well-reasoned, they are an evasion of the specific issue at hand. Catholics are not suing the Obama administration in order to deny basic service to transgender people — they just do not want to be forced to cover or provide transgender surgery.
“Catholic hospitals provide compassionate care to everyone, regardless of status,” Wilson, the CBA CEO explained. “Patients experiencing gender dysphoria deserve no less.”
The real problem rests in the fact that “the prime ethic of any healthcare provider is to do no harm.” Wilson argued that “these regulations do the opposite.”
Beyond doctors and hospitals being forced to perform transgender surgery, rules issued by HHS and the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) require employers to cover gender transition surgery under their health plans. CBA warned that “none of the HHS or EEOC rules has a religious exemption or a grandfathered plan exemption.”
“This means that institutions across the Catholic spectrum—dioceses, religious institutes, private schools, colleges, hospitals, and closely held businesses—are required to perform or pay for medical procedures that directly contradict Catholic teachings,” the CBA press release explained (emphasis added).
“This continued assault on religious freedom by the Obama administration is mystifying,” declared Martin Nussbaum, CBA’s general counsel, who is representing the group in the lawsuit. “Even assuming the government has a sound basis for these rules — and it doesn’t — it can accomplish its objectives in other ways. HHS and EEOC shouldn’t be conscripting the Catholic Church to advance their political agenda.”
CBA has made it clear that Catholics do not object to serving transgender people health care. Indeed, when the HHS rule stipulates that “sex-specific health care cannot be denied or limited just because the person seeking such services identifies as belonging to other gender,” and gives the example that “a provider may not deny an individual treatment for ovarian cancer, based on the individual’s identification as a transgender man,” Catholic institutions should heartily agree.
Just as a Catholic hospital would not deny treatment to a child on the basis that the young boy thinks of himself as a dragon, so they would not deny treating a transgender person with a serious disease. But if the young boy asks for surgery to be made into a dragon, the Catholic hospital should be able to deny him.
For those who would attack such a comparison as unrealistic, I point to the case of 55-year-old dragon lady, Eva Tiamat Baphomet Medusa, who wishes to be referred to as an “it.” It says it believes it was born (“Richard Hernandez”) into the wrong sex, as well as the wrong species, and it is willing to physically destroy its humanity to complete the transformation. This process has already included tooth extraction, eye coloring, horn implants, ear removal, nose modification, and an undoubtedly painful procedure to have a forked tongue.
So why, might you ask, has the Obama administration not mandated separate bathrooms and changing rooms for dragons, and other trans-species individuals? Are they just not quite willing to go that far yet?
The opposition to transgenderism is not just religious. A study from Johns Hopkins University in August discovered that there is no concrete evidence suggesting people are born gay or transgender. Also, Johns Hopkins researchers warned against drastic gender changes among children, as early transgender identities may fade with age.
Finally, many have spoken out about how transgender surgery and hormones have damaged their mental and physical well-being. Two women in particular, who thought they were men and underwent “gender affirming” “treatment,” took to YouTube to lament the damage their transgenderism caused.
Perhaps even more heartbreaking, the transgender movement has also targeted children with autism and Asperger’s syndrome, aiming to recruit among the disabled.
The scariest aspect of this movement is how sudden everything has happened. Gay marriage wasn’t legal until 2015, and President Obama did not even “evolve” to support it until 2012, and yet in 2016 the strong arm of government is silencing dissent on whether or not people are born male or female.
Roman Catholics should be able to live by their faith, and to provide health care without paying for something that violates Catholic teaching. Those who argue that religious freedom is just a smokescreen for discrimination need to read Pope Francis’s declarations and understand the basic Christian doctrine that God made humans male and female — and that is a “very good” thing.