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Trump Administration Allows Religious Health Care Providers to Discriminate, as U.S. Coronavirus Cases Hit Two Million

Washington, D.C.—Today, American Atheists denounced the decision by the Trump Administration’s Department of Health and Human Services to finalize a health care rule that allows for increased discrimination amid a global pandemic.

As a result of this rule, broad and unjustifiable religious exemptions will weaken Section 1557—the nondiscrimination provision of the Affordable Care Act—allowing health care providers to opt out of nondiscrimination rules. This will have a significant negative impact on health care access for transgender and gender nonconforming patients, pregnant women, women seeking reproductive services, and non-English speakers.

“It is unconscionable that the Trump Administration is opening the door to discrimination against vulnerable groups at a time when they particularly need health care,” said Alison Gill, Vice President for Legal and Policy at American Atheists. “Not only are these people among the most hard hit by the pandemic, but they can now be denied essential health care simply because of who they are. The health and well-being of millions and millions of Americans is now even more at risk.”

In August 2019, American Atheists submitted testimony opposing the Department of Health and Human Services’ proposed rule. Yesterday, the United States became the first country with more than two million coronavirus cases.

“There could not be a worse time for the Trump Administration to rubber stamp discrimination,” added Gill. “When this rule goes into effect, health care providers will be able to deny treatment to people that desperately need it, based on their own religious beliefs, rather than the best interests of their patient.”

“The health care discrimination rule sends the message that unless you abide by Evangelical Christianity’s worldview on sexuality and gender, your life doesn’t matter,” said Nick Fish, president of American Atheists. “It’s just the latest attack on LGBTQ people by this administration under their distorted vision of religious liberty.”

“If a transgender patient walked into a hospital seeking treatment for COVID-19—or any injury—this rule would allow doctors to turn them away without repercussions,” added Fish. “No matter what word games the Trump Administration wants to play here, it’s discrimination. Plain and simple. Saying I’m disgusted doesn’t even begin to describe my reaction to today’s announcement.”